PETALING JAYA: Christoph Mueller may have been coy about his next move after he said he would quit Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAS), but a report has surfaced saying that he is headed for the world’s largest airline, Emirates.
The report, which appeared in the German publication manager magazin and several others including the BoardingArea website, stated that Mueller would join Emirates as its chief transformation officer.
The report speculated that Mueller would be leading the airline’s digitisation strategy.
“Malaysia Airlines does not comment on speculation and any questions regarding Mueller’s future should be directed to him,” a company spokeperson said when contacted by StarBiz.
Speculation is rife that the board is likely to name Peter Bellew as the person to helm the airline when Mueller leaves on Sept 1.
“We expect an announcement on the replacement of Mueller this week,” said a source.
An airline executive added that “announcing the replacement should be priority to put to rest unnecessary speculation and lobbying”.
“In the interest of continuity, Bellew is the man. He is already entrenched in the day-to-day running of the airline, has the expertise and experience, and vast knowledge of the airline industry.
“Getting someone else will just put a spanner in the works. MAS does not need any more disruptions and distractions.”
It is said that Bellew has signed the acceptance letter, pending some other approvals.
Bellew was appointed executive director after Mueller said he was leaving MAS for personal reasons.
While up to last month, Mueller had been silent about his next move, the BoardingArea report, though unverified, had surprised many in the industry.
Mueller had said that his early departure from MAS was due to personal reasons.
But there had been reports that he quit because of the culture in MAS and that some decisions had been taken without him being consulted.
An aviation executive said, “To be fair, Mueller knew pretty well what he was getting into. He came in with his eyes wide open…. he accepted it, took drastic steps to turn the airline around, but has to leave before the job is done.”
Whatever the reasons, Mueller has built a name for himself in the industry as a transformation expert and it is no surprise that he is being offered by Emirates.
Mueller did not respond to queries from StarBiz.
He was instrumental in getting Emirates to be MAS’ partner, something the latter needs going forward. The move to have Emirates as a partner will help in terms of traffic volume and also reputation.
There could also be a bigger game planned for Mueller at Emirates as BoardingArea alludes to, saying “Emirates president, Tim Clark, is 66, so I wouldn’t be surprised if 54-year-old Christoph Mueller will eventually replace him. He’d be a good fit.”