2014 was a black year for Malaysian Airlines with the loss of two of its flights. These tragic events only served to compound a range of difficulties that had already resulted in the airline slipping, ever increasingly, into red ink over recent years. There was already an urgent need for change.
It was against this backdrop that the search for a new CEO began. When the appointment was announced it was revealed that industry trouble shooter Christoph Mueller would be stepping into the hot seat. When I last spoke to Christoph at the WTM it was towards the end of his successful period as CEO of Aer Lingus. He’s no stranger to challenging management posts but does he have a chance to succeed at Malaysian? That’s the question I’ll be putting to him.
The aftermath of a crash and the efforts to rebuild trust and confidence are a serious challenge for any airline but for Malaysian it faces many more. On the one hand it is fortunate to be in a part of the world where air traffic is growing, on the other, it faces competition from all quarters; high quality neighbouring Asian operators, leading Low Cost airlines and of course, incursions from the powerful Gulf carriers. A bloated workforce, an overly complex fleet and a network structure that lacks commercial viability add to its problems as does unhelpful political meddling in the running of its business.
All pretty formidable, but so too is the need to win the hearts and minds of staff as well as restoring customer confidence. Equally important if Malaysian is to be restored to financial health and to being a proud symbol of the country which it represents.
Mueller comes to the role with his eyes open and has already made a strong start to getting the company in shape. I’m looking forward to discussing with him exactly why he is confident that heading up Malaysian represents a good career move!