Malaysia Airlines Offers Travel Agents Rolex Watches

There’s no doubt Malaysia Airlines has had a terrible year, and I feel horribly for all of their employees (and of course the families of those on MH370 and MH17). Malaysia Airlines wasn’t doing well financially even prior to these tragedies, and things have only gotten worse since then.

They’re about to lay off thousands of employees, and even so, it’s still uncertain how they’ll be able to survive.

Malaysia Airlines has been running quite a few campaigns to improve their image and get passengers flying with them again. For example, about a month ago they ran a “Bucket List” contest, which ended up backfiring a bit.

But it seems that Malaysia Airlines isn’t just trying to lure customers, but also travel agents. Via WatchReport:

So what is an embattled airline that hasn’t turned a profit since 2010 supposed to do? In the case of Malaysian Airlines, you offer luxury incentives to travel agents. In a deal with the Consolidated Travel Group, the carrier is giving away one of five Rolex watches priced at $8,000 each and 20 return trips to those travel agents who sell more than $20,000 worth of international tickets on Malaysian Airlines by October 5.

Flight Centre executive Haydn Long called the promotion “not unusual because suppliers often rewarded top-selling agents.” He told The Australian, “I have not heard of Rolex watches before, but it can be a trip overseas on offer. A lot of airlines and hotels do the same thing.”

As the article notes, it’s normal for travel providers (airlines, hotels, cruise lines, etc.) to offer travel agents incentives for performance, though they usually come in the form of free travel or some other monetary incentive (higher commission or something).

As far as I know it’s rare for them to be offered incentives other than that, though. I don’t inherently see anything wrong with their approach, and I guess it falls under the theme of “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

What do you think? Is Malaysia Airlines’ Rolex incentive creative, wasteful, or…?

Malaysia Airlines A380


  1. At least Malaysia didn’t call it the “Your Time is Running Out” contest. They’re obviously hard-up for business and if incentivizing travel agents works, more power to them.

  2. What they failed to mention is they picked up those “Rolex’s” from one of the night markets in Bangkok 😉

  3. It isn’t uncommon to have non monetary incentives. IPhone, ipods, tablets, gift cards, all sorts of stuff. Higher commission is fairly uncommon but other forms of incentives are out there.

  4. Though I’m not sure how effective it will be, I have to give credit to MAS for at least trying. They’ll have to think out of the box like perhaps hosting a concert up in the air or getting some celebrities to fly their planes & tell the masses that it’s perfectly fine. Make it go viral. Then voila! Ok I’m no expert but I do feel sorry for them that I opted to keep my Malaysia Airlines flight later this year.

  5. Actually just thinking about it, do you have any future trips on Malaysia Airlines, Lucky? If you do, perhaps do something similar to Derek Low to give MAS some free press (I know you wouldn’t plagiarize though!) 😉

  6. Lucky, I’d be interested in your take on what Malaysian Airlines needs to do to long term. Is it beyond fixing? Garuda was completely screwed but seem to be coming back to life.

    If MAS appointed a German CEO, had their planes serviced in US/ Europe (putting aside cost), had a thorough ongoing safety review by a well respected independent safety company, got rid of those 777-200’s and got some decent planes, got a new ad agency etc. would that give people confidence to return?

    The Rolex thing is just a desperate action by misguided management. They need help.

  7. Prime example of why travel agents have lost customers: selling what they are bribed to sell vs. what’s in the customer’s best interest.

  8. I’d take a Rolex any day over free travel, especially if I can already get everyday access to industry discounted fares as a travel agent.

  9. @ Rado — I think unfortunately the issue goes far beyond the two tragedies we’ve just seen. There’s so much government corruption in Malaysia which is partly responsible for MH’s financial situation. Without the support of the government in granting routes/authorities, I’m afraid there’s only so much else that can be done.

    Will be interesting to see what happens…

  10. This makes me so sad for the families of those lost and the employees of this airline. It’s so crazy that they suffered two unimaginable and completely rare tragedies within months of each other. I just don’t think any airline could survive this, let alone one who was already having some financial difficulty prior to these tragedies.

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