Malaysia Airlines profits plunge

As media outlets reported and no doubt capitalized on the drama of the two recent tragic Malaysia Airlines incidents, few dared to travel with the aviation company in fear that they would be the next ones being mourned.

It was no surprise to the international community when Malaysia Airlines representatives announced that there was a 75% second-quarter net loss in earnings due to the sharp decline in passenger bookings. BBC reports that this same deficit is equivalent to 307 million Malaysian ringgits (97.4m USD or 58.7m euros). That’s enough cash to purchase, in the USA, anywhere from 177 to 245 Aventador Lamborghinis.

Every week, bookings after the MH370 missing-airliner case were, on average, an entire third less than the week before. Furthermore, when MH17 was shot down in Ukraine, customers immediately cancelled almost all their flights. Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya stated, “We expected the impact of MH370 on the performance in Quarter 2,” and further added, “The full financial impact of the double tragedies of MH370 and MH17 is expected to hit Malaysia Airlines in the second half of the year.”

Recently, the company has gone private and is now in the hands of investment firm Khazanah Nasional, which was originally its majority shareholder. However, it is important to note that the company was not performing so well prior to the disasters. Over the last nine years their neighboring competition, Singapore Airlines, has earned nine billion dollars in profit while Malaysia has actually lost an entire billion.

This year’s disasters could be just enough to tip the edge of Malaysia’s wing into full-on bankruptcy. Analyst Shukor Yusof from aviation consultancy Endau Analytics (in Malaysia) claims that, “It will be immensely difficult for MAS to recover… they have dug a hole big enough to swallow the entire company.”

Yusof further remarked that “unless brutal, structural changes are made, there is no long-term future.” Perhaps taking into account these suggestions, Malaysia Airlines has reported that it will be cutting 6,000 jobs. By doing so Malaysia Airlines will be letting go of almost a third of its workforce. In addition, the Malaysian government will be supplying the company with a two billion dollar bailout since the government is a major stakeholder of the airlines.

The government also clearly stated that this support will come with highly “strict conditions.” This cash injection was not the first, and Azman Mokhtar, managing director of Khazanah Nasional, stated that “success is by no means guaranteed.” Other plans include “significant changes to leadership” and the consideration of “global aviation industries executives.” The Malaysian government added that it would be crucial to recreate the company with the “right-sized workforce and work practices and contracts.”

The company also seems to be going into debt due to the budget airlines in the area like AirAsia. Shakeel Adam, an important member of Aviado Partners, a firm whose expertise is airline restructurings and start-ups, theorizes that one of the main reasons for the Malaysian Airlines failure is the airline holding onto so many employees. Adam adds, “Now there may be a renewed opportunity to work together, not to save every last job, but to ensure that the airline survives.”

It’s key to observe how even after these devastating occurrences, people still have to deal with the practical consequences. With all the commotion and difficulties of the recent depressing disappearance and shooting, this is the final opportunity to turn the nose of their plane straight back up, or at least deploy a parachute to slow things down.

Unfortunately, no one could do anything about the 298 civilians murdered over the conflict in Ukraine. Nor was the company able in any way to assist the plane that vanished with 239 people. In light of the failures earlier this year, is it possible that Malaysia Airlines can prevent its own economic crash?