Thursday, July 24, 2014

London, Here We Come

In just 4 days we will be flying into Heathrow Airport, London for our 10 days walking holiday. For the first time in our travel we are totally dependent on public transport and admittedly it was not easy to plan the ground itinerary when we have obvious limitations, one of which is my osteoarthritic knees which periodically developed unannounced pains. It is an inconvenience that I hope will go away while we are in the UK. God willing, the walking stick I'm bringing on the trip will not be used at all. My optimism and enthusiasm was however somewhat put to test by the tragic shooting down of Malaysia Airline flight MH17 on July 17. Coming just over 4 months after the disappearance of MH370 on March 8 this year, this incident unsettled not only my mind, but thousands of air travelers, in particular those intending to fly MAS. And my daughter and I are in this category. We've bought MAS tickets in May when the airline promoted its fares. But we bought them more because we like its non-stop direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to London and back. There is no transit and waiting in airport lounges and in 13 hours we will be in London. We had pondered over the safety of MAS and its reputation, not so much over the MH370 incident, but also that MAS is bleeding financially. The national airline is on the verge of bankruptcy and will most surely need to be rescued or privatized to give it a new life. Based on its track records, MAS is a safe airline to fly but the MH17 incident is driving many MAS customers away, compounding its losses.

The fact that MAS shifted from flying over Ukraine a designated war zone, to another war zone of Syria has many aviation experts baffled. Why? Are they asking for another incident like MH17 to happen? Why place its crews and passengers at risk? But I believe MAS management have studied the alternative route carefully before making this controversial decision.

Syria unlike Ukraine is only engaged in ground level civil war and therefore most unlikely to fire stray missiles into any aerial targets. On this ground alone I believe the fear is unjustified. In fact long range missiles launched from enemy territory can strike any aircraft inside a friendly air space. Of course I am taking a certain amount of risk by continuing to fly MAS to London on MH4 next Monday. But I am confident that a similar event is unlikely.

Deciding to buy MAS air tickets is putting me to some test. Am I to ride on public opinion and forego the trip, or get a refund (last day today) and buy tickets from another airline? But what certainty is there that MAS plane will crash again, or not another airline? Just today two other airlines reported losses. TransAsia Airway flight GE222 crashed in bad weather landing on the island of Penghu, Taiwan, killing 48 passengers. Read HERE. And Air Algerie flight AH5017 disappeared en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers. There are 110 passengers and 6 crews on board. Did it crashed? Or was it hijacked? The scenario is quite similar to that of MH370. Read HERE.

Is air travel dangerous? With 3 incidents in 7 days travelers may be forgiven if they decide to avoid flying. But in any given time there are thousands of airplanes in the skies so losing three planes in 7 days is a safe record. I'm not going to dwell on negative thoughts but believe that if it has to happen to me, so be it, but the risk is extremely small. I am putting my faith in the competency of the pilots, maintenance crews and on my God. I've always prayed for safe life-offs and landings in every flights I've flown before. The upcoming flight is no different. So we shall board our flight with full confidence that we shall land safely and enjoy our London holiday in the summer time and return to Malaysia to share our experiences.


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