Tiong to Azharuddin: Don’t be backseat driver, help aviation sector weather global crisis

Dato Sri Tiong King Sing

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KUCHING, Apr 29: Newly-minted special trade envoy to China Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing criticised Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman for suggesting that AirAsia should close shop due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tiong said it was unwise and untactful for the former director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia to choose this time to make such a sensitive statement as AirAsia has been promoting its motto “Now Everyone Can Fly”, providing consumers with affordable flights in the region especially connecting Malaysia and China.

“AirAsia is playing a crucial role in connecting Malaysia to multiple destinations in China. This has helped us tremendously when it comes to bringing in materials and supplies purchased in China for the Covid-19 pandemic,” Tiong said in a statement here today.

He added that AirAsia has an excellent track record on both its passengers’ and crew safety as it has been their top priority.

“Furthermore, AirAsia has done its best to help to fly in necessary materials needed by the front liners in Malaysia from China,” he said.

The PDP president was commenting on Azharuddin’s statement that low-cost air travel will remain largely unaffected if AirAsia were to cease operations due to loss of revenue caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Azharuddin had said that the impact on air travel and tourism would only be felt initially and that low-cost air travel would soar again after other airlines take up AirAsia’s flight slots.

Azharuddin was also reported to have said that AirAsia’s flight slots would be a precious aviation commodity as the carrier has hundreds of slots every day.

Recently, AirAsia announced that 96 per cent of its 255-strong fleet had been grounded because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Its staff has been required to take pay cuts of between 15-75 per cent, and aircraft manufacturer Airbus recently announced it would sell six aircraft on order by AirAsia.

Tiong stated that Azharuddin’s statement lacked sensitivity as he believed that AirAsia shutting down would impact the lives of thousands of AirAsia employees, crew and ground staff.

“How many families would lose their source of income, unable to make ends meet? Has he thought of those employees before making his statement? What makes it even more doubtful is whether ‘other airlines’ have inspired such a statement due to their own interests?

“I should reiterate that I am not partial to AirAsia but everyone should understand and appreciate that the government is committed to developing schemes to assist our local airlines in facing the economic crisis plaguing our country now, due to the pandemic situation,” said Tiong.

The Bintulu MP stated that all airlines have been affected to some degree so airlines such as AirAsia need the help to overcome their difficulties too.

“Azharuddin should not be led into a pattern of being a backseat driver at this time. He should offer his expertise to these airlines at this time of crisis. Give your thoughts on their transformation to be sustainable.

“Otherwise, don’t come out to make statements at the expense of their airlines. Better to make use of your expertise and experience to improve the aviation sector and help our aviation weather this global crisis,” added Tiong.—DayakDaily