I’ve refrained from commenting on the events surrounding the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 so far. Why? I wanted to see what happened before forming my thoughts.
I’ll be upfront here – I fly Malaysia Airlines (henceforth referred to using their airline code MH) with some regularity. Why? They’re one of few airlines with international flights servicing Perth, they’re relatively cheap for a full service airline, I can get good deals on business class airfares, and I enjoy scuba diving at various sites around Malaysia (primarily around Borneo). This makes MH a cost effective and convenient option for me. Understandably I was concerned about what had happened to the plane.
I had a trip booked to go scuba diving at Sipadan over Easter. Given the mess that the airline has made of the incident with MH370, I have since cancelled the trip entirely. Why? I have absolutely zero confidence in the airline at the current time, and the security lapses at Kuala Lumpur airport concern me greatly. Admittedly getting to Sipadan would mean routing via Kota Kinabalu rather than Kuala Lumpur, but the problem remains. How widespread are these security problems?
I also had flights booked to Europe in July which I have also cancelled and rebooked on another airline. At least Emirates is making money out of this chaos?
Which security problems am I referring to?
- The case of the stolen passports – while it’s been relatively well established that this was a case of illegal immigration and probably had nothing to do with the disappearance of MH370, the issue remains. How on earth did 2 guys travelling on stolen passports that had been reported and were listed in the Interpol database manage to get through security at Kuala Lumpur?
- The case of the unscreened cargo – there have been confirmed reports that on the day MH370 went missing, that the cargo screening machines at Kuala Lumpur were out of order, therefore the cargo for the flight wasn’t scanned before being loaded on board. While the cargo manifest stated what was in the containers, there was nothing done to confirm it. One could very easily lie about the cargo contents if it was never going to be screened for verification. One has to question whether the cargo screeners at Kuala Lumpur were paid off to ignore screening of the cargo. I’m not saying there was definitely anything untoward happening and it could have just been a genuine machine malfunction, but the question does need to be asked given subsequent events.
If the disappearance of MH370 was the result of a fire or some other on board malfunction, I’d put that down to incredibly bad luck and not be overly concerned about flying MH again in the future. Such events are so incredibly rare.
If the disappearance of MH370 was the result of a hijacking or pilot/co-pilot suicide mission, I would also put that down to incredibly bad luck. It would make me reconsider travel on MH until security measures at Kuala Lumpur and on the airline itself were improved, but it wouldn’t put me off entirely.
It’s the uncertainty regarding what happened and the incredibly poor way that MH and the Malaysian government have handled the situation that has made me cancel all future travel plans on the airline. I understand that there has been a great deal of confusion surrounding the incident and nobody really knew what had happened. But the constant “we confirm [x] happened” comments, only to be followed by a categorical denial some 6 hours later? The misleading media statements? The treatment of the families of those on board? The delays in initiating the search when MH370 first disappeared from radar? The politicizing of the incident? That does not fill me, as a frequent flyer, with confidence. If they didn’t know what happened, the airline and authorities should have just admitted it.
When Australia joined the search efforts in the Southern Indian Ocean, they made it clear in all media statements that they were searching for debris found on satellite images, but urged caution because the debris may not be related to MH370. I think that was handled exceptionally well. Rather than saying “we found it, we know what happened!”, they admitted that anything found on satellite images might not be relevant. A similar approach should have been taken by the Malaysians. Instead they made an absolute mess of the situation.
So what do I think actually happened?
- I do not believe it was an onboard fire or equipment malfunction – if there was a fire or some other malfunction, the plane would have crashed long before it ran out of fuel in the Southern Indian Ocean. This has been confirmed to me by a commercial pilot. The plane changed direction too early on and would have crashed somewhere in SE Asia.
- It may potentially have been some kind of pilot/co-pilot plot – looking at the tracked flight path, and the direction it flew after initially going silent, whoever was at the controls was most certainly a professional. The tracking was too precise.
- It may have potentially been a hijacking – as in my previous point, a potential hijacker would have had to have significant flight training in order to follow that specific flight path. They knew exactly where the waystations were. The thing causing me to doubt this is the lack of anyone claiming responsibility. I know nobody claimed the Lockerbie disaster for a very long time though, so who knows?
And that’s really it I suppose – who knows?
For the time being, I’ve cancelled all my travel arrangements on MH, and have abandoned all plans to travel to Malaysia at all even though there are other airlines that can get me there. If the problem originated at the airport, then it’s not simply an issue with Malaysia Airlines, but a more systemic issue that could potentially affect all flights in and out of the country.
While I appreciate the confirmation that the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean and believe that this may provide some measure of closure for the families and friends of those who were on board, I await further information from the authorities about what actually happened. Until that time, my flying dollars will be spent elsewhere.
I won’t lie – I laughed.