Malaysia Airlines has poached Peter Bellew of Ryanair to serve as its chief operations officer.
The appointment of the Ryanair director of flight operations extends a remarkable rate for personnel with connections to Ireland securing top aviation jobs around the world.
Mr Bellew will be second in command at Malaysia under the new chief executive, Christoph Mueller, who left as boss of Aer Lingus earlier this year to help turn around the troubled Asian carrier.
The Government has given its backing to the takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG Group, owner of the British Airways, Iberia, and Veuling carriers, led by Dubliner Willie Walsh, who himself led Aer Lingus more than 10 years ago.
Mr Bellew, 50, starts at his new job in September. A native of Bettystown, Co Meath, he currently lives with his family outside Killarney. He will be in charge of all operations at Malaysia, including engineering, flight operations, and ground operations, as well as having responsibility for the pilots and in-flight crew across a fleet of 140 planes. He was a senior director helping to manage Kerry Airport in the 1990s.
Malaysia Airlines, fully owned by the Malay government, has been hit by tragedies in the last year: A flight from Kuala Lumpur went missing in March last year and a Malay jet was shot down over Ukraine in September.
Industry analysts say that Mr Mueller and Mr Bellew will not seek to impose a Ryanair or Aer Lingus model on Malaysia because of the huge range of the Asian carrier’s operations, which span scores of commuter flights and international services.
Mr Mueller has talked in recent times about the necessity of bringing standard cost control management to the airline and it appears that the appointment of Mr Bellew is part of that strategy.
Experts believe that Malaysia will not drop its international name, but will appoint branding experts to decide on its future marketing for its international services. The main challenge it faces is imposing improved punctuality and efficiency at the airline, analysts say.
Mr Bellew currently has responsibility for pilots at Ryanair and the punctuality of the airline’s services. He is leaving a much larger airline, but faces the challenges of helping to turn around deep problems at Malaysia.
He started his career as a travel and air travel specialist — dealing with Ryanair—about 30 years ago.
He later joined Kerry Airport where the passenger numbers increased from 6,000 to 400,000.
He has worked for Ryanair for the past nine years. He had managed legal disputes with pilots, and previously was responsible for sales and marketing.
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