Trade awaits new Malaysia Airlines, new CEO

Talks continue on Mueller to leave Aer Lingus earlier

The travel trade is optimistic that ailing Malaysia Airlines will turn around under the leadership of the newly appointed CEO designate, Christoph R Mueller.

While Mueller’s contract with Ireland’s Aer Lingus ends on May 1 next year, discussions are ongoing for him to take over at MAS before that date, but no earlier than March 1. What is being termed MAS NewCo plans to start operations on July 1.

Mueller’s role will be challenging. Besides two back-to-back blows earlier this year – one flight’s disappearance and another’s downing over Ukraine – the airline posted net losses of RM 576.1 million (€135 million) in the third quarter.

Adam Kamal, deputy president of the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association: “Mueller is the first foreign CEO at the helm. I think we need someone with an international perspective. Hopefully the government will give him a free hand to perform his duties and turn the airline around. […] Industry players are still comfortable using our national carrier due to its all-inclusive fares and wide network. The airline will have no problem getting support from travel consultants.”

Hamzah Rahmat, president, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents: “We expect our national carrier to turn around with Mueller’s vast experience. We want the airline to return to its glory days as soon as possible.”

However, K Thangavelu, president of the Malaysian Indian Tour and Travel Association, pointed out that managing an Asian airline could be very different from Mueller’s current experience because of “differences in tradition, politics and cultures. He has to adapt very quickly.”

Among Mueller’s key accomplishments are said to be a particular strength in strategic and financial planning, as well as the structural repositioning of companies in difficulties.

The key leadership line-up at NewCo will also include Malaysia Airport Holdings advisor Bashir Ahmad Abdul Majid as chairman of the Corporate Reskilling Centre scheduled to launch on April 1.

TTG Asia

[pictured: Christoph R Mueller; photo courtesy IATA]

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