Cash-strapped Malaysian budget carrier MyAirline abruptly suspends operations, stranding passengers

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian budget carrier MyAirline abruptly suspended operations Thursday, citing financial pressures less than 11 months after it took to the skies. The unexpected announcement on social media caught many by surprise and left angry passengers stranded at the airport.

The airline apologized for the “extremely painful decision” but said “significant financial pressures” made it necessary to temporarily halt operations pending shareholder restructuring and recapitalization of the company.

“We have worked tirelessly to explore various partnership and capital raising options to prevent this suspension. Unfortunately, the constraints of time have left us with no alternative but to take this decision,” its board of directors said in the statement.

The move came just days after the airline said it was in advanced stages of finalizing a strategic partnership. Local media reported that the suspension signaled that those talks may have collapsed.

The airline began flights last December with a fleet of nine aircraft that flies to domestic destinations and Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. It is owned by businessman Allan Goh Hwan Hua. Just two days ago, CEO Rayner Teo, who has a 2% stake in the carrier, stepped down citing health reasons.

The Malaysian Aviation Commission instructed MyAirline to immediately halt sales and bookings of flights, and said refunds must be given. It said it was investigating the airline over complaints that employees’ salaries were unpaid among other issues.

MyAirline made the announcement on social media before dawn on Monday, after passengers on early flights had already checked in at the terminal. Angry travelers took to social media to criticize the carrier for the sudden announcement that left them stranded.

The carrier had 19 flights scheduled for Thursday. Malaysia Airlines, low-cost carrier AirAsia and Batik Air announced discounts and special fares to help MyAirline passengers impacted by the suspension.

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