Our Desk | Is (Air) Macau ready?

Anthony Lam

Last Friday, Air Macau celebrated its silver anniversary. The airline currently has a fleet of 21 Airbus aircraft and carried 3.16 million passengers last year.
Over the last quarter-century, the airline has moved 44 million passengers over a total of 937,000 hours in the sky safely. For a regional airline based in a city of 30 square kilometers with about 650,000 people, this report card could be considered acceptable.
At a celebratory reception held by the airline, chairman Zhao Xiaohang recounted the company’s history.
The chairman pointed out that Air Macau is a brand of safety, quality, stability and localness. In the future, it will utilize Macau’s strategic and political position to help the market develop.
On the other hand, the head of the Civil Aviation Authority, Chan Weng Hong, encouraged the airline to continue the aura of local aviation.
The airline has also signed strategic agreements with several entities to support the growth that it aspires to.
I have seen growth and improvement in the company. It has learned from other market leaders in many ways. For example, it has incorporated fine dining concepts into its flights. Delicacies inspired and monitored by a Michelin-starred culinary team have been introduced in business class on certain routes.
Furthermore, it has also opened its own lounge at its home base. It is the first and only lounge owned by an airline at Macau International Airport to date.
Compared with its Taiwanese counterpart EVA Air, Air Macau offers better meals.
I flew with EVA Air recently and I was offered cold meals on both my outbound and inbound flights – hard and emotionless – despite the warm service offered by the cabin crew.
In comparison, Air Macau has offered me heated dishes on my previous flights.
Nonetheless, a lot of passengers have spoken badly of the airline’s punctuality, service and quality.
First of all, many people often say that the Air Macau cabin crew lack smiles. They may smile at passengers during boarding, but the smiles are retrieved after the closing of the cabin door.
Secondly, seats are too tight for some. EVA Air provides 31 to 32 inches of seat pitch on its A321 aircraft, while only one Air Macau A321 aircraft provides that amount of seat pitch. The others offer 29 to 31 inches.
A friend of mine has accused the airline of “providing [the] services of a budget airline for the price of a regular company.”
In addition, EVA Air has installed two more washrooms in the middle of its A321 (making for four in total on the aircraft), while Air Macau only has three at the rear. The effect of the extra washroom can be significant, potentially leading to shorter queue times.
News has come out that many airlines have planned to start services to Macau after 2022. Air Macau will face fierce competition with other market leaders then.
Tony Fernandes, owner of Air Asia, has expressed his interest in making Macau a hub. They are not mutually exclusive, I understand, but this rings alarm bells for Air Macau. At the time of writing, Starlux is hiring people to fill its upcoming Macau office. Not to mention Qatar Airways’ previous knock on Macau’s door.
Even if Air Macau maintains its current scale, passengers’ appetite for quality won’t. The introduction of newer, better products by other airlines in the region, especially those from the north, will easily outdo the current practices of Air Macau. The airline must constantly improve in order to stand out (in a good way) in the Greater Bay.

Categories Opinion