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Complete overhaul for crisis-hit Malaysia Airlines?

After two aviation tragedies in a matter of months, crisis-hit Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is said to be contemplating a complete overhaul, which may include a name change.

KUALA LUMPUR: After two aviation tragedies in a matter of months, crisis-hit Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is said to be contemplating a complete overhaul, and in a deeply competitive industry where perception is everything, this may include a possible name change. However, the airline says its main concern is its staff, especially its flight crews.

When referring to their national carrier MAS, many Malaysians simply use the airline's code name MH, as MH is commonly understood to be an acronym for Malaysian Hospitality. But after the mysterious disappearance of MH370 in March and the tragic crash of MH17 four months later, the name has become associated with disaster and tragedy.

Faced with cancellations and poor ticket sales, aviation analysts are predicting MAS will last no more than five months. With the national flag carrier losing more than US$1 million a day, they say Khazanah Nasional, the government investment arm, may have to step in swiftly to stop the haemorrhage.

Mohsin Aziz, research analyst at Maybank Investment Bank, said: "It must have been a very sick airline for the past 14 years. It kept losing money. So it's definitely going to take more time before they can turn around, if ever.”

While a complete overhaul may include a leadership change, trimming of staff and reining in its powerful workers union which is resistant to reform, for now, the airline's primary focus is easing the pain of employees, especially flight crews. Morale has been badly affected with 27 crew members lost in just four months – a reality some staff are still struggling to come to terms with.

Chang Yok Lan, MAS flight attendant, said: "We just can't believe this is happening, so close to one another and it's also Malaysia Airlines." Sivakumar, another MAS flight attendant, said: "Cabin crew is family for another cabin crew compared to our family members, and this is our family because most of the time we are away – we are onboard, overseas.”

For many of the airline's staff who had been with the company for decades, what happened was beyond their comprehension but they have found strength in each other in order to continue to serve the airline they are most proud of.

Cheung Wei Ting, MAS flight attendant, said: "I think confidence plays an important part. Once we don the uniform, we know we have a duty to carry it out so we will be alright.” Chang Yok Lan said: "We have faith in our captain and we believe our safety is number one in the world. That's why we have confidence to continue to fly. "

A multi-faith prayer session was held at the airline training centre recently. The company's top management has also since disbursed US$600 to each and every MAS staff. Just like families of victims onboard its ill-fated flights, the airline and its 20,000 strong staff are also praying for closure to happen soon.