Sunday, July 29, 2007

First Class CEO, in Economy

SQ 116. Returning from Singapore, on board Singapore Airlines, I bumped into the CEO of a company that I have criticized quite a few times in this blog because of its political affiliation. I was flying Economy, courtesy of MediaConnect, which had just staged a very successful regional Technology forum and IT Media/Blogs awards in the Indonesian island of Bintan, which is an hour's ferry ride from Singapore.
This CEO was flying Economy.
I don't know of any CEO in his class who fly Economy Class. They all fly Business Class, at least, even if their companies are in the red. At the NSTP, where I used to be, editors like me flew Business Class.
So I had to ask him: "What are you doing flying Economy?"
The answer: "I always fly Economy, bro."
"Oh, really?"

I haven't changed my mind about his company (yet) but I am now very curious about this CEO. I'll be watching him closely.


  1. Anonymous1:18 pm

    My question would be, why would a Malaysian company CEO, especially politically affiliated, fly SQ from a flight from Changi to KLIA?

    MH offers almost one every hour.

    Malaysians, especially high profile personalities should be more 'patriotic' about their choice of products, especially abroad.

  2. Anonymous1:24 pm

    Sometimes people aren't always what they seem.

    I know a certain top-tier company executive who would instruct his PA to look out for discounts or promotion, if any, from budget airlines! He just simply fly "cheap" for business trips.

    Now that's something.

  3. Anonymous1:26 pm

    But if the CEO flies MAS, he may not get there in time, or at all.
    Just like how a group of MCA leaders missed their important meeting cos of a cancellation.

  4. Anonymous2:10 pm


    When you put your life in the air, you don't give a shit about being "patriotic". That is bullshit!

    When you choose airlines, for which you have entrusted your life, comfort and confidence of being able to reach your destination,IN TIME and with the confidence of safety, your patriotism should be to yourself alone and your family.

    If MAS does not give you the confidence of safety and comfort and timeliness, who gives the shit about patriotism. There is a limit to this patriotism crap being wheelbarrowed about in Malaysia.

    You give patriotism where it is due, and not definitely about choosing airlines.

    As for this CEO, he made a right choice of going Economy. Statistics of air disasters show, nobody survice in First Class and Business. The safest place,based on air disaster analysis, in terms of probability, is at the back of the Economy class.

  5. there could be other factors on why flying SIA over MAS, this is trivia ... more important is
    "I always fly Economy" - betul ke ni?

  6. Anonymous3:19 pm

    The shuttle flight fare is the same, frequent flyer, will choose time, i am not CEO, but even for 30 minutes late, i choose not to wait.

  7. Anonymous3:20 pm

    Wow, hadnt known that in Bintan, all this huru-hara was happening for you, back home.
    And you still managed to pull off "Best Dressed" style under pressure.
    Rock on Rocky!!!

  8. Anonymous3:30 pm


    flying mas or sia does not show patriotism.

    If thats the case, then all CEO's, politicians should be driving Proton's.

  9. Anonymous4:03 pm


    Nothing special to note.. Andy Groove the former CEO of Intel always flew in economy, there a few odd cases where manager opted to fly business class and found out the he was in the same flight with the CEO. Needless to say the manger must have felt he was in economy class the whole flight.

  10. First class or economy
    What’s the difference?
    You spend your money
    More here less there
    It is the destination
    You hold your ticket
    You wanted it be on time

    MAS or SIA
    Nothing to do with patriotism
    It is to do with first class services
    This is business

    Lately MAS got so many ‘technical problems’
    It makes one think twice to travel in MAS
    Every time there is a delay
    ‘Sorry folk technical problems!’
    MAS never telling the truth

    The government always paints magical pictures
    Telling the people the economy is good
    See so many immigrants arriving
    This is the sign of managed economy

    Short term gains
    Short changed in the long run
    Look at Proton
    Struggling to get its act together
    Spending millions nothing new
    Telling the people here is the product
    But sales is running slow

    Look at TNB
    Strong arms tactics
    The government agreed
    The consumers pay
    TNB makes billions in profit
    We have to tightened our pockets
    Just TNB licks its gains
    Again giving excuses
    ‘Oops technical problems’

    Up in the air, bro
    The CEO could be right
    Don’t hit the groundnuts
    Fish the big one later
    When the opportunity arrives

    Right now another magic tree
    It’s waiting in the North
    It is said worth $100 billion

    Where is MAS?
    I have nothing else to say
    Only watch the sky
    Count my blessing

  11. Anonymous4:06 pm

    I know a few years back, government sponsored students returning to the UK for an advanced degree would fly business. The reason was, they were government officers and business class was the entitlement. In the corporate world, company directors, VPs, fly coach class (aka economy). That's why companies are making profits and the M'sian government is squandering rakyat's taxes.

  12. Anonymous6:19 pm

    Hey Rock,

    Has it ever crossed ur mind he might b doin a James Bond on u?

    No? Never mind loh!

    Watch ur back, ah! Ha... ha .... ha.

  13. Anonymous6:51 pm

    When life is concern and also you do not want airline to mass up your schedule than you have to put your trust on the LKY label, who would choose a Dr.M or AAB brand and served by someone so unwillingly looking at you with a "NEP & ketuanan malayu" eyes?

  14. CEOS that I've met seem approachable and humble....its just that they'r busy...
    Somehow, to my biased view, middle management seem more uptight and inaccesible for some reason

  15. Fly economy on a 40-minute flight? Big deal! Now if you're talking about anything above 4 hours and he still flies economy, THEN that's something.

  16. Anonymous9:28 pm

    I am sure all of us know of many "patriotic" CEOs and COOs who shout MAS but fly SIA! :)

  17. Hi Rocky,

    Nice meeting you at the Kickstart Asia 2007. Truly admire you and jeff for your fighting spirits.

    Keep blogging on... From now on, I'll be your reader. :)

  18. Anonymous10:10 pm

    business or economy, who cares?is he effective and a get the job done? if he can, hell fly 1st class,no one cares.

  19. Anonymous10:54 pm

    well, someone said :

    1st class, business class or economy class u still arrived at the same time.

  20. Anonymous12:14 am

    That is not new to real businessman especially those who own the company.
    Not many people knew that Bill Gate, by choice, flies economy, This guy basically owns Microsoft and he is the second richest man in the world

  21. Anonymous3:17 am


    Until three weeks ago, MAS have had impeccable track getting people and cargo on time. These delays now are about MAS management being taught an expensive lesson on team-spirit, team-work and humility by the workforce, who were made to play second fiddle and eat crumbs.

    Never before the management of MAS had to face this "silent strike" from its operations workforce. The worse part is, none of them are not doing their job. They just do bare minimal. All these while these people work the arse of to ensure all the 400 flights go smoothly across 6 continents, daily.

    Now that the management do not appreciate them en bloc, in favour of selected few, so they decided to do what is required for them to do. If logistics issues and crisis are not able to be solved, they simply don't care anymore. That is the thing about the airline business, every single flight have issues that require people to resolve it.

    Malaysia Airlines is the national carrier. Its the primary airline which flies the Jalur Gemilang. Of course its more patriotic when one fly on Malaysia Airlines, especially on destination served. It depicts Malaysian choose products and services offered by a Malaysian company FIRST, more over its a national carrier.

  22. Sdr Rocky Bru,

    Ist, Business or economy isn't the issue. If it's provided for in his contrcat, why not?

    He can be riding econony, but if his GLC does badly what's the point?

    He can be riding 1st class, drinking wine and eating caviare, it's fine with me if his GLC is doing well.

    But doing well not by dressing up the accounts via creative accounting or stripping and selling assets like some GLC managers are fond of doing.

    We have to take a close look at Proton's past and future accounts because out of a sudden it's announced that the national auto manufacturer is returning to the black.

    Who chairing the company now, still Azlan Hashim?

    And is it not against the rule and the norm for Petronas not to have a chairman since the death of Tan Sri Azizan more than two years ago?

    What do you think of Senators' Club wanting Idris Jala out of Mas for alleged poor performance?

    By the way, bloggers are monkeys according to Khairy Jamaluddin and political bloggers are uninformed foreing agents according to Zam.

    I think if Zam is IT literate or if he's being fed with the correct information by his handlers, he won't be making this kind of sweeping statement.

    Thank you.

  23. Anonymous9:59 am

    Less than an hour flight in economy class? No big deal, nothing extraordinary. "I always fly economy...." That's just being nice to you. Let's see whether people like him will still fly economy (for business trips)for long distance flights or flights that's more than four hours...

    Anyway, first class,business class or economy...who cares??

  24. Anonymous 3.30pm. Good observation.
    Funny how some people can have selective 'patriotic' sentiments.

    BD, I do remember the times when MAS had its Golden Years...Then personnel are appraised according to their output. It seems these days such is not the case.
    I am not sure what happened as those I know of are mainly graded personnel, and not senior Managers and all, but it is obvious, and typically Malaysian, that those doing the hard work are normally marginalised.
    I am assuming that the 1 month 'payment' was to appease the general workforce, but it seems to me that Idris is doing a Tajudin.
    (remember, when TR took over? Deja Vu?)

  25. Anonymous10:48 am

    If you are referring to the same person whom I have in mind, he has always been like that. He shuns publicity, does not live in mansion and he does not mix with high societies or politicians either. He even have his lunch in the office (home cooked and send daily from home). There are still simple and sincere people around, not every politician, CEOs, leaders, ulamas, civil servants etc are as bad as what bloggers,oppositions, observers et al made them out to be. There is still some hope for this country.
    Wonder why there are so many cynics around?

  26. Anonymous11:51 am

    so which company is the ceo from?

  27. Anonymous4:11 pm

    Yes Allied Marster, MAS management today is did a complete cock up on people management; their own people. You are right again, this happened before. But that is the other side of the coin.

    The point here is that Malaysia Airlines is a the national carrier.

    We as Malaysians, should hold the line and retain consistency in support of our national carrier. We should protect our own products and services and not consume others.

  28. Anonymous4:24 pm

    there's no crime for ceo to flies economy, but if the ceo bought an aircraft for flying pleasure ( and at the expense of others ) thats pure disgusting.

  29. Anonymous6:27 pm


    May I offer an answer?
    Because it's fashionable to be anti-establishment, especially among the urban educated! It shows you read the papers and the blogs and you watch TV!

    Seriously, it means you have visited or lived in other countries where the system is so much better! It shows you are caring and concerned about your fellow human! It shows you want a better world if not for yourself, at least for your children and grandchildren.

    But the world and God's creatures are so unequal in both innate and acquired capacities and talents!
    It's the striving for equality and equity that counts!

  30. perhaps the CEO is practising frugality?

  31. Anonymous11:15 pm

    A few months ago I bumped into an old schoolmate en route to Buenos Aires. He was with a goverment delegation for some meeting there, I was on my way to a journey of a lifetime. Anyway, I was mortified to learn that the entire entourage flew business class, including my said friend, who is a junior officer in a federal ministry. In fact, he's just there to make sure his boss doesnt lose his luggage..or something. I did my homework and after that I learnt that if you work for the government, you could fly biz class if it involves more that five hours flight time, regardless your entitlement. In my company, only the CEO ever gets to fly biz class, period.And our annual turnover can make even Proton or MAS blush! This is crazy...

  32. Goddamit, what's the fuss ? When I was a busy CEO I have flown any airline, any aircraft and any class as long as I get to my destination on time.From eating beluga caviar and drinking Dom Perignon on SIA 1st class flight to London to flying in Indonesia with Buraq DC 3 with holes in the belly I don't have much choice if I don't want to lose my business deals.

    I know of some very rich Chinaman, probably can afford to buy their own private jet, travelled economy when the better classes are full.

  33. Anonymous6:12 pm

    big dog says:
    'We as Malaysians, should hold the line and retain consistency in support of our national carrier. We should protect our own products and services and not consume others.'

    i was just wondering if this still applies if MAS's flight records mirror that of a certain Indonesian Airline

  34. Anonymous12:28 pm

    I had the same encounter about a year back as well with the same fella. I was unsure at first but seeing the trademark headwear and badge hanging from his neck confirmed his identity. He had a laidback demeanour and was on his blackberry for the duration of the flight. Not too often you see a CEO going around dressed up (down) in jeans and a round-neck pagoda-like t-shirt. It was indeed a humbling experience..No doubt he'd prefer flying using a different "brand" to the Red Dot.