Southeast Asia’s top budget carrier AirAsia on Saturday withdrew its latest inflight magazine and apologised for an offending article boasting that its well-trained pilots would never lose a plane.
AirAsia Executive Chairman Kamarudin Meranun expressed “deep regret and remorse,” saying the latest issue of “travel 3Sixty” magazine was printed before the Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 239 people disappeared March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Kamarudin said the article was a monthly aviation column prepared well in advance by a retired pilot, who had worked for both AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines.
“This is a truly difficult time for the nation and words cannot describe how I personally feel of this incident,” Kamarudin said in a statement. “It truly saddens me that this article was released at such an inopportune moment. Again, I repeatedly offer my sincere apologies for any discomfort this may have caused.”
The article sparked anger on social media after an AirAsia passenger posted a photograph of the text on Twitter late on Friday.
The last paragraph read: “Pilot training in AirAsia is continuous and very thorough. Rest assured that your captain is well prepared to ensure your plane will never get lost.”
AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes also echoed the apology.
“As soon as we were informed on Twitter, we withdrew. Once again, apologies. It has been a difficult time for all in the industry,” he tweeted.
Kamarudin said disciplinary action would be taken against the magazine’s editorial team.
The fate of the Malaysian airline remained a mystery nearly a month after it vanished. A multinational search team is racing against time to find the flight recorders in the Indian Ocean where it was believed to have crashed. No floating wreckage has been found in the water so far.
It wasn’t the first faux pas for AirAsia.
On the day the plane went missing, Fernandes said on Twitter that the aircraft’s radio had failed and that all were safe, but later deleted the tweet.