Was it a simple case of editorial oversight or a grossly insensitive and untimely dig at the beleaguered competition? That’s the question many are asking after Malaysia Airlines’ low-cost rival, AirAsia, boasted that its pilots would never lose a plane.
Under a section in AirAsia’s in-flight magazine marked “Training & Preparation,” the Kuala Lumpur-based carrier noted: “Pilot training in AirAsia is continuous and very thorough. Rest assured that your captain is well prepared to ensure your plane will never get lost. Have a safe flight.”
The controversial text appears in the latest edition of the seatback Travel 3Sixty magazine, which AirAsia pulled from its aircraft Saturday. The budget carrier said the magazine was printed long before Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on March 8 carrying 239 people.
Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, AirAsia executive chairman and publisher of Travel 3Sixty magazine, apologized “for any offense caused by the Pilot’s Perspective article.”
“The section is a monthly column on aviation written by Capt. Lim Khoy Hing, a retired pilot who formally worked with AirAsia as well as Malaysia Airlines and [has] written books on aviation industry,” Meranun explained in a statement issued Saturday. “As a monthly contributor, Capt. Lim prepared all of his articles months in advance before the magazine goes to print. Unintentionally and regrettably, the current issue carries an article that discusses GPS and Radar, which was printed a month before its issue date.”
Meranun said AirAsia had addressed the issue and improved its editorial approval process to ensure such mistakes wouldn’t happen again. He said that in the future, AirAsia would ensure that all content is consistent with its brand values.
“This is a truly difficult time for [Malaysia] and words cannot describe how I personally feel of this incident,” Meranun added. “It truly saddens me that this article was released at such an inopportune moment.”
Meranun said the company was looking into disciplinary actions for the editorial team. He reiterated that AirAsia’s thoughts and prayers remained with family and friends affected by the ongoing tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
AirAsia is Southeast Asia’s largest budget carrier and one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world, making a $6 billion purchase from Airbus in December for 25 A330-300s to use on its long-haul AirAsia X unit. The carrier is known for its strong presence on social media, yet several of its followers cried foul after news of the untimely boast surfaced on Twitter late Friday night.
AirAsia, the world's best airline, populated and managed by inherently arrogant douchebags. pic.twitter.com/OVUkOePGsy
â€” Shamilf (@shamilf) April 4, 2014
â€” Ayeen (@AyeenSalleh) April 5, 2014
AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes echoed the carrier’s emphatic apology in a series of three notes on Twitter. “As soon as we were informed on Twitter, we withdrew. Once again, apologies. It has been a difficult time for all in the industry,” he tweeted.
Those waiting for any news in the month-long search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight received a glimmer of hope on Saturday when a Chinese ship searching for the plane detected two separate pulse signals, possibly from Flight MH370’s black box. Dozens of ships and planes from 26 countries are racing against the clock to find the black-box recorders before their batteries run out.