Petaling Jaya (The Star/ANN) - They say life begins at 40. This is the time when some choose to lift their foot off the accelerator to enjoy what they have achieved, and some begin to re-prioritise their lives.
A group of former employees of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) they are certainly not 40 years old met for a game of golf and had a sumptuous lunch on Monday to mark the airline's 40 years anniversary. To them it was an important landmark because it was on that day four decades ago that MAS broke away from Malaysia-Singapore Airlines to chart its own flight path.
More than 100 people had lunch together and reminisced about their days at the airline. Those at the lunch included Saw Huat Lye, Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman (first and second GM/MD of MAS respectively), Kamarudin Ahmad, Resham Singh and Ahmad Don.
They had reasons to celebrate.
Amid all the turbulent years of falling into private hands and later back to the Government, this airline has carried a great number of passengers across the globe. Although it is undergoing restructuring, it is still flying unlike several other carriers that began about the same time.
Many travellers have fond memories of flying with MAS and the one thing that continues to captivate many is the big smiles and hospitality of its crew. Despite its ups and downs, MAS was accorded three Skytrax awards again this year, including World Best Cabin staff 2012,
There must be something that the crew and MAS are doing right.
And at 40, MAS is beginning to build a new fleet that comprises the A380 to fight competition although it would in the red much of this and next year, so say the bosses at MAS.
Interestingly at 40, there is still talk that MAS may be taken private once again. There is a long-standing rumour that MAS parent Khazanah Nasional Bhd would want to do a "Proton" i.e. sell its MAS shares to a businessman.
Some say the suitors may include Middle Eastern investors. Others say Ahmad Johan of Nadi Sdn Bhd is keen to acquire a stake in MAS. His name has long been linked with a possible MAS sale, but it should be noted that he has partnered Indonesia's Lion Air to set up Malindo Airways, a low-cost airline that will begin operations on May 1 from Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2).
At this point, any talk of MAS having a new controlling shareholder is mere rumour. However, come Saturday there is likely to be a retreat with some MAS union leaders. Ahmad Johan and Aziz have been linked to this.
The venue of the retreat is said to have changed three times from Rompin to Bukit Tinggi and now it will be held at a hotel near MAS office in Subang.
Aziz did clarify that it was a "brainstorming meeting". "They (the unions) want to know what's now and what's the future of the industry," he said.
MAS is rebuilding itself once again. A lot has to be improved and even its directors are going help out.
MAS still has a good brand. Its safety and security standards are respectable, and the A380 is a great morale booster. The enhancements in efficiency are slowly showing results in some areas.
Those within MAS can help by improving their performance and staying united. A lot more can be achieved if they are all on the same page.
Another retreat is on the cards after Saturday, but this will involve the MAS management as they map out the airline's flight path to 2030.
B.K. Sidhu is deputy news editor of The Star