Christoph Müller: All new at Malay airline

Loss-making Malaysia Airlines is set to undergo a complete overhaul as it is restructured into a new company, with a rebranding that will be unveiled next week and changes planned to its fleet and network strategies.

Christoph Müller, who joined from Aer Lingus, said in his first interview since taking over as chief executive on May 1 that the new company would be like a “start-up”. A new name and livery are on the cards for Malaysia Airlines, sources told Reuters.

“I’m hired to run the new company entirely on commercial terms and there’s very little margin for error,” Müller told Reuters at the downtown Kuala Lumpur office of Malaysian state investor Khazanah, which took MAS private late last year as part of a 6bn ringgit (€1.51bn) restructuring.

“It’s not a continuation of the old company in a new disguise, everything is new,” said Mr Müller, who helped turn around carriers such as Aer Lingus, Belgium’s Sabena, and Germany’s Lufthansa.

Khazanah said the chairman of audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers Malaysia has been appointed to oversee the move of MAS’ assets and liabilities to a new company, Malaysia Airlines Bhd, which is due to start operating by September.

The airline, which has seen successive years of losses, suffered huge damage to its brand after flight MH370, carrying 239 passengers and crew, disappeared in March last year, in what has become one of the greatest aviation mysteries.

In July, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, and all 298 aboard were killed. Apart from the brand, analysts say that the key to a revival will be the management’s ability to reduce costs, deploy capacity more efficiently, create a profitable network that leverages on Kuala Lumpur’s position as a regional hub, and partnerships with other airlines.

MAS, in the past, was also hindered by disagreements between the management and the unions, which opposed job cuts. The government also interfered in the day-to-day running of the airline, and commercial contracts were often awarded to suppliers with political connections.

MAS has announced plans to lay off about a third of its 20,000 workforce, expected in the coming week, and will also shrink its capacity this year. Mr Müller confirmed that the carrier has been trying to sell two of its A380s and will likely have fewer planes overall.

Reuters


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