The resumption of pings received by the Australian ship Ocean Shield has provided a ray of hope in the month-long search for the missing Malaysian Airline Boeing 777 jet which mysteriously disappeared on March 8 with 239 people aboard while on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.
Because of the growing perception and suspicion that Malaysian officials and the airline executive have mishandled the ongoing search and investigation, many travelers have been avoiding the embattled air carrier since then.
This time, it is no longer just anecdotes of air passengers rebooking their flights with other airlines but solid evidence that customers are abandoning Malaysian Airlines. According to a report from Pocketbook (https://getpocketbook.com), an Australian budget management app, based on bank accounts of 20,000 Australians, their March spending on tickets from the Kuala Lumpur-based air carrier drastically dropped by one third on monthly average for the past six months.
Its partner carrier, China Southern Airlines, suffered a 50 per cent cut in Australian spending, while China Easter and Air Asia, which have links to Malaysia and China, also experienced 34 and 20 per cent reductions respectively, reported AAP.
However, overall airline spending of Aussies grew 7 per cent in March with Cathay Pacific enjoying a 48 per cent hike, Virgin Australia 16 per cent and Qantas 10 per cent.
Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, chief executive of Malaysian Airlines, has admitted the disappearance of the ill-fated Flight 370 has negatively affected its ticket sales, worsening the financial standing of the company that had logged a net loss of $35.4 million in 2013. Its share prices, like the aircraft, had plunged up to 20 per cent since March 8.
But it is not just its flag carrier which is in deep trouble because Malaysia is also suffering from an image problem since the crisis as relatives of the Chinese passengers accuse Malaysian officials of hiding the truth from them.
As a result, Malaysian Culture and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz said that Kuala Lumpur has suspended its Visit Malaysia Year 2014 campaign in China until there is solution to the mystery of the missing aircraft.
He said because Chinese are still in a state of shock, it would be improper to bring back the campaign at this time.
Prior to the incident, about 1.6 million Chinese visited Malaysia in 2013 and the minister has admitted that the numbers has gone done since then. Travel agencies, which had 30 to 40 customers monthly for tours to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand disclosed that no one is booking that route anymore.
According to a Bank of America Merrill Lunch note, Chinese visitors comprise 12 per cent of Malaysia's total tourist arrivals and contribute 0.4 per cent to the country's gross domestic product.