KUALA LUMPUR – “Today, Malaysia Airlines, as we know it, is leaving its cruising altitude and is about to prepare the cabin for a very safe landing. At the same time, the new Malaysia Airlines is preparing for the first flight and itâ€™s getting ready to take off,” said Christoph Mueller in early June.
Mueller, who is Chief Executive Officer of Malaysian Airline System Bhd (MAS), is set to switch hats when he heads New MAS, Malaysia Airline Bhd (MAB), when it takes off September 1.
While some may look at this as nothing more than a change in company name, actually the newly created MAB is part of a more elaborate machinery meant to give the national airline a new lease of life — start on a clean slate â€“ no more old baggage of huge losses, lop-sided supplier agreements and restrictive work rules. A clean book is what MAB starts with.
Amidst all the negativity surrounding MAS over the last decades and compounded by the twin tragedies of 2014, it came as a pleasant surprise that MAB received a thumping 98 per cent vote of confidence from its 14,000 employees who were offered new jobs to join new MAS.
With their safety net already in the pocket after receiving compensation packages that range from RM300,000 to RM500,000 as reported, one would have thought they would go into other directions to seek new fortunes.
And yet these 98 per cent who accepted offers to work in MAB must have seen a glimpse of the new MAS and want to be part of the national airline as it rebuilds itself.
If the employees are not confident of MAB, surely only less than 50 per cent would have signed up, but instead 98 per cent feel they can contribute positively to the new entity.
What this indicates is that the most critical people, the employees who will spearhead MAB are confident the national airline can fly into profitability
sometime in 2018 as projected.
While on the subject of people, it is worth remembering that an airline is a “service business” and not a ‘transport business’ — so the people factor is critical as the staff are the ones who deliver the service.
And the announcement of new management appointments the past few weeks certainly bode well for MAB.
MAB will welcome Peter Bellew as its Chief Operations Officer, Faridah Hashim as Head of Corporate Communications, Laurent Recoura as Head of Sales and Datuk Sabrina Albakry Abu Bakar as its Company Secretary.
More appointments are expected to be announced in MAB in the coming weeks further boosting confidence in the national airline.
Not to mention the recognition of internal talent with the appointment of Mohd Nadziruddin Mohd Basri as chief executive officer of Malaysia Airlines Bhd’s new subsidiary, MAB Ground Handling Services Sdn Bhd.
Mueller had earlier highlighted that the new carrier will have three divisions â€“ operations, support functions, and learning and development. There will be a total of 12 subsidiaries with its own Key Performance Indicators (KPI).
This approach is meant to move away from the old MAS where there was a lack of performance culture.
Walking into MAB for these 98 per cent will be a sea change from the MAS before, and by accepting the job offer, is a positive indication that they are ready to grasp this change.
“It might not be a start-up, but it will be like one with everything newâ€“ new company, new shareholders. In fact everything will be new. We have applied for a new airlines certificate, we have asked IATA (International Air Transport Association) to transfer the MH code,” Mueller said.
What this means is that the “hard re-set” is being put into place now and the process of a new Malaysia Airlines has begun, and with that saving the airline and the pride of Malaysia.
Credit must also be given to the Prime Minister for making the hard political decision to “bite the bullet” on MAS and totally revamp the airline, then putting Khazanah Nasional in the driver’s seat with a totally new plan and injecting fresh funding of RM6 billion. They then went looking around the world for the next head of MAS, leading to the decision to hire Mueller.
The German-born Mueller’s appointment is a game-changer because it’s a departure from the typical inward-looking Malaysian attitude of putting only Malaysians to helm the national carrier or other key national assets.
Only Mueller knows the sheer challenges and tasks he and his team carry on their shoulders and the hopes of the entire nation on what is certainly going to the last call for MAS.
Deemed as the mother of all restructurings when Khazanahâ€™s 12-point plan was announced last August, this time around saw the emergence of a new business entity, MAB.
A small entity to start with, Mueller and the MAB team now are busy putting in place a business plans as can be seen from the announcements made – looking at smaller planes, cutting unprofitable routes, renegotiations of contracts asÂ well as upgrading the IT infrastructure of the airline to put MAB on a profitable and sustainable platform.
As Mueller had mentioned, he will need all hands on deck, not just the staff to work together with him but also or Khazanah, the Malaysian government and the rakyat so that our national airline will once again fly high in the blue sky.
Malaysian Trade Union Congress Sarawak Division secretary Andrew Lo had rightly summed when he said “MAS belongs to all Malaysians and I believe all of us take a certain level of pride in our national carrier, as we also want to see MAS fly high once more.”
And to the 98 per cent of the 14,000 employees who will be with MAS, here is a message from Lim Swee Seng, the secretary of Airlines Workers Union (Sarawak) to all MAB employees “Letâ€™s work together and chart a new chapter.” – BERNAMA