MAS: Logic Defying Economics


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(Will it work or it is going to be RM6 billion down the drain again? This is going to be the last chance for MAS and the people who are managing it. We do not want to see another bailout in 2018! Image source: TheStar)

It is going to leave the economists around the world speechless. It may even cause the rules of economics to be re-written all over again and the geniuses that came up with this brilliant plan will be worshipped as the God of Economy for many years to come.

If you do not know what I am talking about, well, read this first:-

Khazanah Nasional Bhd has unveiled a 12-point plan to enable Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to achieve sustained profitability within three years of de-listing, by the end of 2017.

Its managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar said the plan involved a comprehensive overhaul of the airline.

“At its core, the plan involves the creation of a new company, (NewCo) which will house the ‘new MAS’ and the migration of the right-sized workforce and work practices and contracts into NewCo,” he told reporters at a special briefing at Khazanah headquarters on Friday.

(Source)

When I talked about re-writing the books on economy, blah, blah, I was not talking about Khazanah’s plans to restructure MAS. They seems to be doing things by the books and whether it will work or not, we will know in the next 3 years. One just hopes that they had identified all the correct shortcomings and have addressed them comprehensively in their plan. In an interview with the first CEO of MAS, it is obvious that there have been some serious bad decisions made in the past and all these must be addressed too:-

Generally, MAS poor performance is due to its wrong business plan and the loss of flight MH370 demoralized the staff and MAS has to handle this. How to do it? MAS must change its business plan. What’s wrong with the plan? The thing that is wrong with the plan is the choice of its routes which it has been plying for the past 15 years.

Those routes are now overcrowded with all the low cost carriers. The market now wants to fly domestic and regional and 80 per cent of air travellers want to fly budget. Only the rich and the businessmen fly full service. So MAS has to do something to capture that 80 per cent market. It has to reshuffle and realign its aircraft fleet. Utilizing Firefly as the main carrier for domestic and regional. The rest, let MAS handle.

And take a second look on the use of the A380. Does MAS really need six of the super-huge aircraft. No need to file for bankruptcy. Don’t be ridiculous.

Maybe in some departments there are a surplus of workers but we have to look at it in totality. We can’t lay off 5,000 workers out of the 20,000 employees which MAS has. It does not have to lay a single worker if it is restructured properly. But we have to take a look at the salaries of some of the management team of which I was told touch more than RM100,000 a month.

Why must they be paid such a huge amount at a time when MAS is in the red and why do you axe workers with low salaries? I question how the board of directors can approve such a huge salary. How did it come to this?

I question why MAS use the A380 which is hardly utilised but cost millions to operate.

Why do we need the six air-crafts? That is one out of a thousand and one issues plaguing MAS. MAS also wants to sell the MRO and the person who proposed it does not know anything about the aviation industry. Engineering plays a huge part in the MAS makeup and plays a vital role in safety, efficiency, integrity and operations.

MAS has to fully control that business and if properly managed can become an income earner. During my time, MAS maintains and services aircrafts from the US, Australia and Canada. MAS made money out of this division. So why do you want to hive off this division to another company and then buy back the service from the very same firm? MAS will bleed even more just like the catering business. Although MAS has a 30 percent stake, it has to pay a high price for the food. MAS can sell a small stake but make sure it still controls MRO. Don’t sell the entire stake.

(Source)

Anyway, we’ll see this one closely. Very closely indeed. However, the one that is going to rewrite the books of economics is going to be this:-

Khazanah Nasional Bhd not only intends to recover every sen of the RM6bil investment into Malaysia Airlines (MAS), but wants to make money on the venture, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister, dismissing perception that the money pumped into the airline was a bailout, said Khazanah would be injecting the money to make MAS a viable organisation.

“This is not a bailout but an investment. Khazanah intends to recover every single sen of the RM6bil and more,” he said after chairing the monthly Umno supreme council meeting Friday.

(Source)

And this:-

Umno mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia has given the thumbs up to the comprehensive revamp plan to revive loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS), saying that the move to turn the national carrier around will not affect its services.

Awang Selamat, the collective voice of the paper’s editors, said he was confident the national icon would be back in the black in three years, based on stringent regulatory controls over the 12-point plan unveiled by state sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad yesterday.

“The emphasis on these aspects will have a significant impact on the recovery effort. It also differs from previous efforts which have ended in failure.

“We are also confident such changes will bear fruit and more importantly, the services of the national carrier will not be affected,” he said in the column today.

(Source)

Yes, firstly use the word “investment” instead of “bailout” to hide the fact that IT IS a bailout. Then tell the whole world that the money spent on the bailout, opps err, investment will be recovered. And continue with the statement that the entity that was put in charge of the bailout, sorry, investment is doing it because they want to make money on the said venture. I wonder how many millions was paid to external consultants to come up with such brilliant idea to substitute a bailout with an idea of investment. Can they for once call a spade a spade? Malaysians are not that dumb, you know?

Then secondly get the editor of a newspaper (that is deep in shit themselves with RM11 million loss), to put on the hat of a learned economist and turnaround specialist to say that the proposed turnaround plan will definitely work and all that will happen in 3 years as promised. And this is despite of many failed attempts to turnaround the national carrier in the past by the same group of people. After all, if the editors are so smart and confident, why the paper is not making money themselves? After all, Khazanah themselves was reported to say this:-

Khazanah, which has injected more than 5 billion ringgit into MAS over the last 10 years, said its new fund injections would be strictly tied to the new company meeting performance targets.

“Success is by no means guaranteed,” Khazanah said.

(Source)

And even the Old Man has his doubts:-

I may be wrong but I think Khazanah’s 100% ownership of MAS will not be much different from its 70% ownership. We are going to see a lot of new people who will receive huge salaries, allowances and bonuses and not much else. That I believe is how Khazanah operates.

(Source)

Whatever bullshit that will be spinned in the next 3 years, one thing will be sure – the taxpayers need to be prepared for the worse to kiss their RM6 billion (or more in the coming years) goodbye. Unless of course, certain things happens.

The Government through Khazanah must have the will-power and political clout to make real changes that will see the RM6 billion to be spent on the turnaround plan of MAS be recovered with every cents accounted for in 3 years time. They must look beyond the color of the skin when it comes to picking the right people to run the airline (and never this piece of idiotic thinking again) and it should not be limited to Malaysians alone. Priorities must be set right and must be followed strictly.

They must not be swayed with likes of extremists like Perkasa, Pekida, Isma (do I need to say more?), dumb “keris wielding” politicians (who will make noise for the sake of making noise) or inexperienced consultants with unbelievable fat payroll (who may prolong the misery for more fat salary). Otherwise they will end up digging deeper into the taxpayers money for another turnaround plan after 2018.

And more importantly, they must always remember that national pride and the nation’s good name is at stake here and thus no matter what, this turnaround plan must work. No ifs or buts. They must remember that the RM6 billion that will spend on the turnaround plan belongs to the taxpayers (and not from their own personal pockets) and every cent must be accounted for. I hope so they will or otherwise we will talking about another turnaround plan in 2018.

Selamat Hari Merdeka!!

MH17 – The Final Goodbye


I drafted something else on MH17 and I worked on it for the past few days but in the end, after witnessing what the Dutch have done, I simply scraped it outright.

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(There is a serene peace and quietness when you see these images. Image source: Google)

These images of the Dutch giving the high respect to the bodies of the MH17 somehow shook me and left me in tears. As the hearse passes the overhead bridge, you can hear the claps from the people who have been waiting long for the hearse to pass by. Despite being thousands miles away, I too share the pain and sadness and simply remained in silence and prayed that the victims (a number of them, children) will rest in peace and the monsters who shot down the plane would be found and prosecuted.

Yes, it is a war zone and yes, mistakes may have happened but why the long delays in retrieving the bodies and the black box. Perhaps we can ponder on the another day. In the meantime, one need to salute the Dutch for what they have done, not knowing for sure the nationality of the victims that they are honoring. It did not matter – all in MH17 shared the same fate.

It was heartening when I read this:-

“This is how you honour the dead,” Dutch daily NRC headlined Thursday, contrasting the solemn return to the Netherlands of the first MH17 bodies with the traumatic chaos of the plane’s crash site in rebel-held Ukraine.

The NRC and several other papers printed front page photographs of flowers being dropped from a motorway bridge as the cortege of 40 hearses drove from Eindhoven airport.

Many contrasted the traumatic images of pro-Russian separatists handling bodies and personal belongings following the July 17 crash with the solemnity of the first plane’s arrival and welcome by Dutch armed forces.

“Soldiers wore hats instead of balaclavas,” wrote Thomas de Veen in the NRC daily after Dutch troops unloaded the 40 coffins from two planes.

“At last, a respectful homage,” headlined the AD, with 193 of the 298 people killed aboard the Malaysia Airways flight Dutch.

(Source)

There is a lesson to be learned from Dutch and I hope that the idiots at this part of the world will drop their short minded thinking and learn something about humanity

For a week, the usual bashing of the Church and the Opposition coalition was suspended, as the whole world mourned the victims of MH17. Now that the remains of the MH17 victims are in the process of being repatriated, troublemakers have resumed the fomenting of dissent and racial strife in Malaysia.

The situation in Malaysia has returned to “normal”. Scare tactics, involving race and religion, are used to distract the rakyat from important matters like rising poverty, increased crime and the economic and financial health of Malaysia. The first shot, to endanger national security was fired by the former Chief Justice (CJ) Abdul Hamid Mohamad.

At a buka puasa event last Monday, Hamid warned that Islam was under threat in DAP led Penang. He warned that the threat to Islam would spread throughout Malaysia.

The timing for Hamid’s announcement is critical. He waited until the world’s interest in MH17 had died down, so he could achieve maximum impact among the rakyat, especially the Malay Muslims.

(Source)

When we will ever grow up?

When we will ever accept that Malaysians of a different skin color, religion and culture at the end of the day are Malaysians too?

When we will ever accept the differences that we have and move on?

When we will ever grow a back bone and show the middle finger to these idiots who are bent on ruining the country out the door?

We had 2 tragedies months apart this year and we had lost 93 Malaysians and they say that when tragedy strikes the nation, everyone gets united and speak with one voice. It is a shame that despite these tragedies, we still act like we are living in a cave, with our brains firmly stuck to our backside, talking about fellow Malaysians on petty matters.

P.s. Selamat Hari Raya and have a good holidays next week

MH17: Oh My God, Not Another Tragedy!


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(What’s left of MH17 – a tragedy that should not have happened in the first place. Image source: BBC)

I did not believe when I first heard about it. It can’t be true. Someone must have made a mistake. Then the news started to trickle in. It was all gloomy and the outcome did not look well.

A Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 295 people has crashed in east Ukraine on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

There are no signs of survivors at the scene of the crash near the village of Grabovo, in rebel-held territory close to the border with Russia.

Both sides in Ukraine’s civil conflict accused each other of shooting down the plane with a missile. It is still not clear why the plane came down.

It is the second disaster suffered by Malaysia Airlines this year. Flight MH370 disappeared en route from Malaysia to China in April and still has not been found.

At a news conference at Schiphol airport, Malaysia Airlines’ European chief Huib Gorter said they were still trying to identify some of the passengers from flight MH17.

He said of the passengers that have been identified there were:

• 154 Dutch nationals, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians
• Six Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three from the Philippines and one Canadian
• All 15 of the crew were Malaysian

Other airlines have announced they are now avoiding eastern Ukraine.

(Source)

The question that needs immediate answer is why and who.

Najib rightly had put the view of the nation when he said “This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia”. We have yet to overcome the loss of MH370 and certainly we do no need another tragedy involving our planes. My brother in law is certainly in a shock over the loss – he flew on the route quite often and know personally some of the crew. This has been the second time he had been very lucky by missing out on the 2 routes where MH had gone down.

It certainly has been the case of the plane being at the wrong time and place and unlike MH370, we have the wreck and to some extent, some kind of a closure. We must find the one who pulled the trigger and make them pay dearly (the case already building up on the pro-Russia rebels as being the main culprits). The lost of 295 passengers and 15 crew members is not a small of a matter to be swept under the carpet and called as collateral damage in the on-going conflict.

It’s a tragic indeed…

Tour of Duty, Again


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(Caught this shot with my phone on the way for an overseas trip. Somehow I had the dread thoughts of MH370 but all ended well when nothing out of the ordinary happened and we landed safely)

Firstly sorry for missing out on the regular posts for past 2 weeks. You see, it is the time of the year when I clean up my drawers in the office, prepare the monthly budget for my wife, hunt for new clothes / shoes and prepare myself for a painful good-byes to my kids (my precious ones in an eerie Gollum voice).

It’s time for tour of duty where I pack up and go for onsite work in another country for couple of months. Hopefully, I will have time to work on the blog but it is a wishful thinking – 2 weeks into the tour and I am still struggling to do one post. It is almost 9.30 pm as I drafting this post and we have not taken our dinner (my stomach making loud noise protesting).

And I know the team work on the weekends, forgoing sleep, water and food to get the job done. Some of them are coughing and sneezing rather badly, so that put things in a different perspective as well. I know how bad it is to be working with tonnes of pressure and with a stuffy nose (or a bountiful of malaria parasite in the blood stream a few years ago).

It will be living hell – not because the clients like to play the role of the devil (some of them are). Most of them are humans too and they understand the constraints that we facing too. After all, we are all in the same boat, with the same destination, timeline and deadlines. It is living hell primarily because we put ourself into a situation where we want to give the best in what we are doing (a dose of “Malaysia Boleh” sprinkle into it) and try to out do what we have done the day before.

But all is not lost – there is always a silver lining in every clouds. One thing for sure is that we will always learn something new and it can be work related or not. Don’t laugh but this time, I might learn something that is related to washing. To be more precise, washing my clothes with the washing machine. You see, we are not staying in a hotel where we can just chuck our dirty laundry to one end, fill up the form and come back to see the clothes all washed up and ironed and stacked away neatly on the table.

We are staying in an apartment where it can accommodate a larger number of us and is more cost effective to the customer. There is a laundrette nearby but the owner, an old lady often closes the shop before we come back from work (which is usually very late). And it is expensive and slow as well – it takes a week for the clothes to be back, unless you give her extra $$$ and you will get a faster return. So, when I saw my colleague washing his clothes in the apartment washing machine, I asked him about it and he showed me how to get this done. Don’t get me wrong, there is washing machine back home too but I had never tried to wash clothes myself. It is uneconomical. Why waste time, water and electricity when this can be done once everyone had put in their dirty clothes. And this usually would be handled by my wife or my sister.

So, this was considered my first time “venturing” out on my own with the washing machine. And I have already one washing and it was not that bad (I loved when it started to spin on hyper-speed) and looking forward to do my own washing in the coming weeks. I can save up money and get my clothes the very next day.

Another thing I had learned (although this could be very old news to some of you out there) is to set my phone as a hotspot so that I can get internet connection for both my smartphone and my laptop at the same time.

Got to go now – please expect irregular blog posts in the coming months

MH370: Lesson in Crisis Management


Frankly speaking, the last thing we need now is a missing plane…

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(I had to pinch myself when I first heard about the missing plane. I flew MAS on a regular basis and I prefer flying on a Boeing 777 than Airbus. Having a missing plane was something that all Malaysian did not expect to hear on a Saturday morning. The disappearance remains a mystery and a multi country search to date have revealed nothing to date. Image source: http://engtechmag.wordpress.com)

There was another trip scheduled up North last weekend for some religious function. However we did not go alone this time around. We hooked up with my brother in law and his family at our usual stop at the R&R. It was still early in the morning on Saturday and we had a good breakfast to kick-start the day. We then drove in a convoy with my usual “Speedy Gonzales” brother in law in tow and keeping within my speed limits (after all, driving within the speed limit on the highway is more relaxing, safe and fuel efficient than being a speed demon on the highway).

We reached our destination rather early in the morning and my brother in law then overtook me at the toll plaza but then when we reached the house, he was no where to be seen. I called him on his phone but the line was engaged. After a while, I saw him driving up to the car porch, visibly shaken and very upset. He then told me about the MH370 that had gone missing and he knew the crew rather well (you see, he works with MAS). We then spent the whole day glued to the TV seeking the latest news for the missing MH370 (with me gladly forgoing sleeping in the hotel for any positive news on the missing MH370) and him busy with sms-es, whatapps and calls with his colleagues and friends, all for the latest news on the missing plane.

And that is the time, we got a rude wake up call on Malaysian style of crisis management. Whilst foreign news channels already putting up the missing plane as breaking news and providing more insights (CCCTV even had assembled some experts panelist in the newsroom), the local channels – TV1, TV2 and TV3 are still in the lala land and showing programs that has nothing to do with missing plane (one even had cartoon on the air). Thankfully this boo-boo did not last long (perhaps thanks to the criticisms in social medias on how the local news were sleeping on the biggest news of the year) and now we have Astro Awani providing all round news coverage on MH370.

Then as more reports – both official, unofficial and of course, an avalanche of speculations poured in widening the mystery over the missing plane, the level of crisis management by the Malaysians authorities becomes more apparent. It did not go unnoticed in the foreign media. One even mentioned:-

“They’re handling a huge global issue as if it was domestic politics,”

(Source)

But you cannot blame Malaysia for this. Well, think about it – with relatively very few natural disasters (except for the annual flash floods where crisis management is nothing to shout about – just see what happened during the flooding in Kuantan) and man made disasters (like the Highway Tower tragedy), Malaysia actually have a very few reasons to beef up its crisis management structure and readiness.

Even with this incident of a missing plane – it is still feels like one is in a bad dream. My brother in law said the same thing when he first heard the news. There was no reason to believe that a MAS plane could go missing. There were no initial terrorist threats, the aircraft maintenance level is high and the flight crew is very competent. So the initial fumble up by the Malaysian authorities in dealing with this crisis is highly understandable and slowly but surely, once reality had kicked in, you can see a proper coordination and updates coming through on the incident. In my opinion, the current Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman is doing a fine job handling the crisis despite unwillingly being thrown into the unknown. But that does not mean, there is no room for improvement and the missing MH370 shows we still have a long way to go.

Datuk Azharuddin

(The DCA chief, Datuk Azharuddin at the center of the crisis and he is backed up by the key people from MAS, the Air Force and the APMM. Image source: The Malaysian Insider)

Don’t get me wrong. The basic crisis management structure is there but by the time they get into the action of a proper crisis management, many days would have lapsed. This often would be compounded by having too many people wanting to take the lead and make decisions and statements which sometimes contradict each other and causes things to be more confusing. The lack of coordination between the various departments and the lack of information sharing is simply sad. Same happened during the Lahad Datu crisis and the same is happening in the current handling of the MH370 disappearance:-

The Malaysian authorities have come under fire following conflicting accounts on the last known position of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 before it went missing. The New York Times said the authorities had repeatedly said they were doing their best but Putrajaya and the airline had issued imprecise, incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information, with civilian officials contradicting military leaders.

The New York Times report said Rodzali’s statement stunned aviation experts as well as officials in China, who had been told again and again that the authorities had lost contact with the plane more than an hour earlier, when it was on course over the Gulf of Thailand, east of the peninsula. The latest information also caused an uproar on Chinese social media sites. “Malaysia, how could you hide something this big until now?” said one posting on Sina.com Weibo, a service similar to Twitter.

David Learmount, operations and safety editor at Flightglobal, a news and data service for the aviation sector, said the Malaysian government seemed evasive and confused, and he questioned why, if the remarks attributed to Rodzali were true, the government took so long to reveal evidence about a westwards flight path.

(Source)

Take the instance of the flight path of MH370. The Air Force is now coming forward (later denying it but not completely) and saying that the plane may have crossed over the Peninsula to the Straits of Malacca. Before that, it was the case of the 2 impostors (at one point, it was 4 people) and another is the actual people who did not check in. This has not been really settled with both MAS and the police seems to be making conflicting statements.

On the change of flight path, if it is true, is not only unfair to the various countries especially Vietnam who have pitched in their valuable time and resources looking out for any evidence of the plane. It is also unfair to the family and friends of the missing passengers who have kept in the dark on what had happened to their loved ones. It is also shows the state of chaos and confusion that the authorities are in even within themselves. And that is very embarrassing. On the other hand, the shortcomings and loopholes in the national security is just too glaring.

The Air Force said that they did not intercept the plane because it was not classified as hostile (I read somewhere that it is because the plane was flying away from Malaysia but once again, this information is not made known for all). Damn, didn’t these people learned anything from the 9-11 when commercial planes were used in the act of terrorism. Didn’t a commercial plane deviating from its original flight plane without a proper authorisation raised a red flag to those manning the radar station?

What about the 2 Iranians who managed to slip out using stolen passports? It was reported that these Iranians came in to Malaysia using Iranian passport but then exited using stolen foreign passports. Don’t the immigration department kept the entry records to compare? No wonder KLIA have been a haven for drug dealers and carriers and criminals from Iran, Nigeria, Latin America and other red-flagged countries. Someone had kept both their eyes closed for a long time now and let these parasites to slip in and out on a regular basis. Will the incident MH370 disappearance be the catalyst for a real change on how we can tighten the vetting of foreigners coming to country?

Anyway no point to talk about the past at the moment. We still have a plane missing and that should be the main focus for now.

I recall Datuk Azharuddin in one of the press conference as saying that they wish not indulge in speculations but rather deploy a more scientific method to identify and search for the missing plane. I liked the way he stressed the point and kept his confidence up. Of course having contradictory statements coming from his team does not help in stressing the scientific method to find the plane. This lack of information sharing and contradictory statements to the media should stop immediately. All statements should be made by only one person and that person is not the IGP, the military key officers, the Transport Minister and the various politicians who try to make their 2 cents (and their share of the limelight) worth at the time of the crisis. And that person should be Datuk Azharuddin.

And speaking of deploying scientific methods to find the missing plane, the last thing we need now is these clowns (surprisingly endorsed by the administration) to make fun of the whole incident. There is a big difference between praying in silence and making a sick circus show in an international airport and in front of the foreign media. These clowns should be arrested on the spot and thrown into a mental asylum for a long, long time. They have turned a serious search and rescue investigation into a laughing stock of the world. It was basically a show of the middle finger to the missing passengers, relatives & friends in grieve and the heroic search and rescue team from the various nations.

Let’s just hope that the plane could be found soon and we can start to investigate on what had really happened.

Airplane Headache


Just a quick one this week…

(Things you do not want to see or worse, do when you are in a plane – trust me, you never know what will happen next. Having a terrible headache just when you are about to land for the first time is something else)

I was away on a short trip overseas for a meeting. Except for the idiot who keep bumping his trolley into me at the check-in counter, the flight itself was uneventful. The service from MAS was excellent as usual and the in-flight meal was good too but all that changed when I landed and walked to get my luggage.

First thing I noticed was part of the bag was damaged but it was not the end of it. Part of the bag was covered with some kind of oil. But since I had to rush for my meeting, I decided not to spend time claiming for the damage or arguing with the airport staff on the oil stain on the bag. I admit that it was my mistake, I should have packed my clothes into a smaller hand carry bag that I could have brought in the cabin instead of checking in a bigger bag. After all, it was a short trip but sometimes as you know me, I like to do things the other way around. I gathered later that the oil could have come from another passengers’ bag – it smells like some kind of medicated oil instead of aircraft lubricating oil (which is a good thing, now I think about it). I guessed some idiot had not packed it well and the bottle must have broken when their luggage was thrown into the plane. Thinking that the oil “damage” only limited to the outer rim of the bag, I decided forget about it and focus on the work at hand. Hours before I need to show my face at the meeting, I had checked in at the hotel and taken a quick shower.

I then opened my bag and got a shock of my life – the oil that was so evident on the outside of the bag had “leaked” into inside and had ruined my clothes (which I suppose to wear for the formal meeting). I regret not checking on this at the airport and make my case with the staff but there was no time to waste now. I had no choice – I noticed my company T-shirt had escaped the damage and was still good to wear. I wore back my jeans and headed to the meeting. At the meeting, so as not to rise any eye-brows (which I know will happen since the rest was wearing formal), I apologized upfront for my inappropriate attire and explained what happened. The meeting went rather well and my “out of place” wardrobe did not make any issues.

After I came back from the meeting, I checked on the damage – it was not that bad. I managed to clean up the oil from the bag but the stain on the clothes had to wait until I go back and sent it for washing. It was an early flight the next morning, so I hardly sleep that night – I do not want to oversleep and rush to the airport the next day. Thankfully I did not wake up late the next morning and took my time to shower, pack up and head to the front office to check out and wait for my shuttle to the airport.

I was flying back on a “budget” – purely because it was the first flight out in the morning. Budget also means I need to be ready with my cash for the in flight meal and there is no in-flight entertainment. I just hoped that the plane would be on-time and without any other problems. There was quite number of foreigners on the flight back home – so most of them passed on the in-flight meals (perhaps it was still too early in the morning). So I had a plenty of choice to pick when the flight attendant come over to ask me on the meals. The last time I flew on budget, the popular meals were all sold out and I had to settle to one of the less favorite choice on the menu and it was not that good. Having nothing else to do, I was asleep for rest of the journey though.

A sense of a sudden drop woke me up. I then realized that the plane had descended and the pilot had just announced that we will landing soon. Then it started. A sharp pain near my eye lids and side of my head and it only increased as the plane neared the airport. I was not wrong to imagine that something was moving in my head – you would have thought the same. I actually thought there was something alien in my head, moving to and fro, drilling and probing into my brain. I looked around and noticed that all looked normal with other passengers – no one was holding their head in sharp pain. I did not want to cause any unnecessary panic (like the one in the top video), so I just held on, hoping that the pain would go away once we have come to lower altitude. I somehow knew what was causing the pain and I kept trying to open my mouth to equalize the pressure in & out but after many years of flying (some spanning of flying 10 – 18 hours of flight per trip) and did not having the same thing, I was a bit concerned. Why now? Is age finally catching up with me?

Thankfully my head did not explode, although the pain remained even after I had reached home and taken a hot shower. A couple of painkillers and a good afternoon nap did the trick. I probably need to be more prepared next time I fly – last thing I need is to be the next “star” in YouTube.

Safest Airplane Seat


This may interest the frequent fliers…

(Chances of survival in case of a crash. Pick your seats wisely – it may even keep you alive in the unlikely situation. Note the irony of things – you pay more for Business Class but your chances of survival is even slimmer. Image source: Popular Mechanics)

From Popular Mechanics:-

A look at real-world crash stats, however, suggests that the farther back you sit, the better your odds of survival. Passengers near the tail of a plane are about 40 percent more likely to survive a crash than those in the first few rows up front.

That’s the conclusion of an exclusive Popular Mechanics study that examined every commercial jet crash in the United States, since 1971, that had both fatalities and survivors.

The raw data from these 20 accidents has been languishing for decades in National Transportation Safety Board files, waiting to be analyzed by anyone curious enough to look and willing to do the statistical drudgework.

In the past, I did not really care much on where I am seating as long as I am in the right plane and heading to the right destination. Some of my friends like to seat in front for a couple of reasons – it is nearer to the lavatory (especially for those who have small storage “tank”), it is easier to disembark (since most of the time, you will disembark from the front) and there is a higher chance of getting the available meal (if they are serving fish and chicken – one of this would run out by the time the meal trolley reaches the back).

But over the years, I find that it is more comfortable seating at the back – there are more empty seats at the back. So, I can put my spare items on the empty seats. Further, with empty seats at the back, I don’t have to worry about reclining my seat and inconvenience the passenger at the back when they are having their meals (something that some passengers at the front don’t think when reclining their seats). Ya, by seating at the back, it takes a longer time for me to disembark but it does not make any big difference.

Disembarkation is pretty fast in modern planes – sometimes they even open the door at the back to ensure passengers get off even faster. The real delay is often encountered at the immigration counters and luggage retrieval areas.

(The meal during my Chennai – KL trip in Malaysian Airlines. It was not so bad once you get used to eating “not really fresh” airline meals)

And with most of the crying babies and “hard to handle” kids sitting at the front, it is somehow “quieter” at the back – an added advantage in a 7 – 8 hours flight.

And when it comes to getting your food of choice, it is not really a big problem. These days, I simply log in to the airline website, pick my seat of my choice and can decide to have something different for my airline meals (such as meals cooked for Hindus or vegetarians). This way, you are pretty sure that there is one meal reserved for you no matter where you are sitting. I had special meals for Hindus in my recent flight and I was surprised on how good the meal looked and tasted compared to the usual airline meal which is usually predictable and bland (so much so my neighboring passenger wanted the same meal as mine).

And now with the statistics backing me up, the back seats looks so tempting and safe…

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