The no frills airline Air Asia was among the Chinese firms targeted by the Muslim Malaysian opposition party for its support of the political opposition.
Politics in Malaysia are oftentimes very anti-Chinese. While the ethnic Malays dominate the politics of the country, the Chinese minority dominates the economy.
The South China Morning Post reported on those anti-Air Asia and anti-Chinese protests in May of last year.
The calls for a boycott come after an Umno-owned newspaper, Utusan Melayu, ran a front-page editorial on May 7 headlined “What More do the Chinese Want?”
The editorial said the Chinese community had failed in its attempt to overthrow the government and was ungrateful.
Chinese voters swung strongly towards the opposition in the election. But there were also major swings towards the opposition, headed by Anwar Ibrahim, among urban and middle-class voters across the ethnic spectrum. The result widened the city-country rift, with most rural voters backing the government.
Air Asia, Malaysia’s largest budget airline, was added to the boycott list after a top official from a sister airline criticised Utusan’s editorial as racist.
Azran Osman Rani, chief executive of Air Asia X, reportedly said he was “disgusted” by Utusan’s editorial stance. Utusan responded by saying it would stop taking advertisements from the airline until he apologised.
An Air Asia official said the boycott calls had had no impact on the airline’s business.
“Why should it be affected? [Air Asia] offers best prices, best routes. People who want to travel on holiday prefer cheap and reliable travel, except for the very rich,” said the official.
“Calling for a boycott is Utusan’s right but … we think it is unhealthy to attack someone for expressing his views,” they said.