Twin disasters spark Malaysia Airlines' crew resignations

KUALA LUMPUR – Almost 200 crew members have resigned from Malaysia Airlines which was hit by two deadly tragedies this year, the carrier said on Tuesday.

The flag carrier, which prior to this year had a good safety record, has been in the spotlight for the past six months following the disappearance of flight MH370 on March 8 and the shooting down of MH17 on July 17 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine. The airline said 186 crew members had left in the first seven months of this year, with many blaming family pressure prompted by the tragedies.

"Following the MH17 incident, there was a spike in crew resignations but the number has now decreased to acceptable and routinely expected levels. Many cited 'family pressure' as the reason for their resignation due to the MH17 and MH370 tragedies," it said in a statement.

Employees Union Secretary General Abdul Malek Ariff said, "Some are now afraid to fly.'' He was quoted by the Edge Financial daily Monday as saying that crew shortages were forcing staff to work up to 12 hours a day. The union represents about 8,000 of Malaysia Airlines' 19,500-strong workforce. The carrier said it was providing emotional and psychological support to its staff.

The two aviation tragedies killed 537 people including 27 crew members. Flight MH370 disappeared mysteriously in March en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. No trace has been found despite an intensive search in the southern Indian Ocean. The airline was widely criticised for its handling of the crisis. On July 17 MH17 was shot down over war-torn eastern Ukraine, with another 298 people killed.

The ailing airline is in the midst of being taken private by sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional as part of an expected major overhaul. Khazanah is expected this week to announce a series of restructuring measures including job cuts and axing of unprofitable international routes.

The carrier has struggled amid intense competition, losing $1.3 billion over the past three years even before the two disasters. For this year's first quarter the airline posted a net loss of 443 million ringgit ($137 million) citing MH370's impact on bookings. It was the fifth straight quarterly loss.

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