KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airlines will significantly reduce its overall network following the nationwide movement control order imposed by the government from March 18 to 31 to curb Covid-19.

The national carrier said it has suspended international flights to India from March 17-31 and to the Philippines (March 21-31) following travel bans implemented by the respective governments to/from Malaysia.

Prior to the order, Malaysia Airlines had suspended services to Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Beijing Daxing, as well as the Kota Kinabalu-Shanghai route due to border controls, and reduced capacity to Australia and New Zealand due to the self-isolation policy undertaken by the two countries.

Malaysia Airlines group chief executive officer Captain Izham Ismail said the situation has been rather fluid these past two days since the national carrier have had to make last minute cancellations to abide by the restrictions.

“The uncoordinated approach has posed great challenges to our operations, but we are doing our best to re-route passengers via reallocation onto other carriers. This is an added cost to our operations,“ he said in a statement today.

Malaysia Airlines is also adjusting its low-load flights by cancelling and merging them to manage costs, while managing customers’ expectations, Izham said, adding that to date, the carrier had cancelled more than 4,000 flights.

The Malaysia Airlines’ Global Contact Centre has been at the brunt of this situation with the number of calls peaking at 25,000 daily and up to 2,000 emails daily in the past three weeks.

“We sincerely apologise to our passengers as we understand the situation is causing them anxiety concerning their bookings. I assure them that we are not here to take advantage of the situation - in fact, we are one of few airlines that have offered unlimited flexibility in travel date change and waiver of certain fees.

“It is just taking us a lot longer to process each request due to the volume of calls and emails. Changing bookings requires a special expertise in the global booking system. Therefore, it takes time for us to redeploy staff to support our contact centre,“ he said.

Izham said the airline’s ticket office in Nu Sentral is closed from March 18 following the nationwide closure of malls and encouraged passengers with bookings beyond the next 48 hours to initiate booking changes online via Malaysia Airlines’ Covid-19 waiver assistance form on its website.

Due to the significant capacity cut, Malaysia Airlines and all sister companies under the Malaysia Aviation Group’s back office operations have also been reduced alongside flight and airport operations.

A majority of its workforce globally are working from home in line with various governments’ requirements to combat Covid-19.

The group said it continues to uphold the highest safety standards in its entire operations. - Bernama