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After disasters, stricken Malaysia Airlines staff brace for job cuts

Published on Aug 27, 2014 5:33 AM
 

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - As bodies from downed Flight MH17 were brought home last week, a group of Malaysia Airlines flight attendants, in black mourning headscarves contrasting with their pink and turquoise uniforms, sobbed and clung to each other in grief. The 19,500 staff of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) now face a new ordeal - a quarter of them may lose their jobs at the unprofitable airline, hit by two jet disasters this year.

Flight MH370 remains untraced since its disappearance en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March. Deep job losses, route cuts and a change of leadership are expected to feature in a restructuring plan being prepared by Malaysia's government for announcement as early as Thursday, when MAS also reports second-quarter results. Likely the last before being de-listed, the numbers are expected to show plunging ticket sales and heavy losses even before July's shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine.

As state fund Khazanah Nasional, the majority owner, prepares to take the company private and inject efficiency into the airline, it must tackle crumbling staff morale and win over the powerful main labour union if turnaround efforts are to succeed.

"MAS is suffering from an image problem and a problem with the staff," said Mr Nik Huslan, former chief pilot at MAS. "They have to find someone the staff can respect and rally behind."

A Malaysia Airlines air stewardess wipes her eyes during a memorial for victims of MH370 and MH17 at Malaysia Airlines headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on July 25, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
 
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