Hit by double disasters, Malaysia Airlines may become tainted for travelers, never recover

The Associated Press

An electronic board displaying "Pray for MH17" at the departure hall at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, July 18, 2014. Malaysia Airlines has increased the death toll from Flight 17 that was shot down over war-torn eastern Ukraine on Thursday to 298 from 295, saying that three infants had not been included in the original list. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

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"Last time I saw them, the plane was almost empty and so I suspect, probably losing a lot of money," said tourist Ricky Leong as he checked in for a Malaysia Airlines flight from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur. "They're not going to maintain their fleet and there's going to be issues in the future."

After the disappearance of Flight 370, the biggest backlash emanated from China because its nationals were the majority of passengers on the flight. Hopes for a recovery in that crucial market might now be set back.

Tongcheng Network Technology, which operates the Chinese ticket booking website ly.com, suspended all flight ticketing and hotel bookings involving Malaysia Airlines after Flight 370 vanished.

"Now there's this plane crash, we would be very unlikely to consider resuming it in the future," said the manager of its public relations department, who only gave her surname, Zhang.

Crisis and risk management expert Kuniyoshi Shirai at A.C.E. Consulting in Tokyo said Malaysia Airlines must take dramatic steps such as replacing top executives in response to the disaster, which he blamed partly on the airline for flying over war-torn eastern Ukraine.

"Otherwise, you cannot regain the trust of either consumers or investors," he said.

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Wright reported from Bangkok. AP Business Writers Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo and Youkyung Lee in Incheon, South Korea; AP writer Satish Cheney in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; AP researcher Zhao Liang in Beijing and Chantal Yuen in Hong Kong contributed.

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