Words by Amelia Pazderski
(Disclaimer: Amelia is a former Macquarie University student, now working in Public Relations)
It was the kind of news headline that didn’t seem real. Another Malaysian Airlines flight had been shot down on route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Aside from the tragedy of the incident, the main question being asked is, “what does this mean for the future of the airline?”
Malaysia Airlines had already been struggling with years of declining bookings and mounting financial losses when MH370, and its 239 passengers, mysteriously disappeared in March, sending the carrier into free-fall. The July 17 downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, deeply compounds these woes. Despite a reputation for good service and safety, the company can ill-afford this decline; its share price has been on a downward run for a decade and is worth a tenth of the value that it was in March 2004. Last year, the airline recorded a 1.17 billion Ringgit (AU$336 million) loss.
Now the airline’s previously strong safety record has effectively been erased.. According to the International Air Transport Association, there were an average of 517 deaths annually in commercial aviation incidents between 2009 and 2013. Now a single airline appears to have surpassed that death toll in a single year.
But news sources have stated that the two airline tragedies could have far reaching implications for Malaysia as a whole. Whilst, around 500,000 Australians visit Malaysia each year, Australia’s ninth most popular tourist destination, searches for accommodation in the capital, Kuala Lumpur made by Australian site users dropped by a quarter in the two weeks after MH370 disappeared.
Chinese tourists seem to have developed an even stronger aversion to Malaysia. The Wall Street Journal China reported on July 29 that 38,400 Chinese people responded to an online poll asking whether the MH370 saga would influence whether they would travel to Malaysia in future. 77 per cent of respondents said it would.
To survive the twin tragedies of flights MH370 and MH17, analysts have predicted that the airline carrier needs an immediate intervention from the Malaysian Government Investment Fund, the body that controls its budgets. This is likely to result in deep restructuring, including the airline changing its name. Only time will tell whether this will be enough to save the unfortunate airline.