Malaysia Airlines used to serve good food, the country’s prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said bluntly in an interview with the national carrier’s inflight magazine Going Places.
In sharing his fond memories of flights with the airlines, Dr Mahathir said: “Those days, I always flew with Malaysia Airlines. The food was good, and of course, being the prime minister, I get to fly in First Class”.
Dr Mahathir, known during his first stint as prime minister for his “Look East Policy” in hopes of Malaysians emulating Japan, also told the magazine that the best place he has been for a vacation is Fukuoka there.
He was just on an official visit to the town last month, but his trip was unfortunately cut short due to a typhoon warning.
Dr Mahathir also said national airlines need not be government-owned, but can still retain its identity while being privately-run.
“We can still have a national airline, but it does not necessarily have to be owned by the government. The days where there is a national airline for every country is over.
“Now you can have a number of airlines. One of those can be called a national airline because it carries the symbol [of the nation] but it can be operated by the private sector,” he was quoted saying in the interview, in response to an observation that governments such as the United Kingdom and Germany no longer operate national carriers British Airways and Lufthansa.
He was also responding to the question of whether there is still any value in having a national airline beyond pride or patriotism.
Dr Mahathir had in March said the government would study whether to shut down, sell off or refinance Malaysia Airlines, and had in June said the government would consider selling the national carrier if there is a good offer.
Four investor groups were previously reported to be keen in exploring options to help turnaround the ailing career and return it to profitability including via possible takeovers, but financial daily The Edge had on August 28 reported that only one of the groups appear to still be interested.
Besides sharing his thoughts in the Going Places magazine on Malaysia Airlines, Dr Mahathir also weighed in on the local tourism industry and how Malaysians could do better to draw in tourists.
“We have too many bureaucratic procedures, which we have to reduce. And in some cases, we don’t appear to be very hospitable too. We find that in some countries, people are always smiling, they are very welcoming to tourists, but sometimes, Malaysians don’t behave like that,” he was quoted saying.
Dr Mahathir also expressed hope that private firms would step forward to carry out tourism ventures.
“The government has built a lot of places of interest to attract tourists. Take the case of Langkawi. Previously, it had 10,000 visitors a year, but now, it has 3.2 million because we have created a “product” and we are adding to the product.
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