KUALA LUMPUR: Christoph Mueller’s decision to leave Malaysia Airlines Bhd before his three-year contract as chief executive officer ends comes as a surpise, but his departure must not derail the national carrier’s turnaround plan and quest to chalk up profitability eventually.
Understandably, the airline fraternity was taken aback by this piece of news as his entrance into the national carrier from Ireland’s Aer Lingus last year, sparked hopes for the revival of MAB into a profitable entity.
Mueller managed to set the right foundation in his short stint so far with the airline and in the process maintained his track record of turning around ailing airlines.
Among his achievements with Malaysia Airlines included capacity reduction for unprofitable routes and a code-sharing partnership with Emirates.
It was also during his watch that the national airline reported a profit in February this year, the first positive monthly result in years.
He would leave behind a sterling legacy having notched up many successes in such a short time since his appointment on May 1, 2015.
He would serve out his six-month notice period until September.
An analyst said Mueller’s decision to leave ahead of his three-year contract would not send a good message to the public, given that he is someone with that much calibre.
“Everyone had high hopes when he joined. He steered the airline in the right direction and made tough decisions with route rationalisation and staff reduction.
“If the management continues with what he has left them, we believe the airline will stand a chance to become profitable,” he told Bernama.
“Shame, he was a good guy,” remarked AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes who also expressed disappointment when he heard the news.
Firefly Chief Executive Officer Ignatius Ong feels that the show must go on for MAB as the building blocks have been put in place.
“The management team would see to the turnaround plan being carried out,” said Ong, who helms low-cost carrier Firefly, a subsidiary of MAB.
Meanwhile, based on its statement yesterday, the national airline was actively searching for a new chief executive officer, internally and externally, for potential candidates.
It also appointed Chief Operations Officer Peter Bellew, the former Ryanair Flight Operations Director, as Executive Director on the board with immediate effect.
Mueller attributed personal circumstances to his early departure.
“I am looking forward to continuing this exciting task for another six months in my executive position.
“I am confident that the company is now on the right track to succeed in its next phase of growth under a new CEO. I remain fully committed to do everything possible to facilitate the continuing turnaround of Malaysia Airlines,” he added.