PETALING JAYA: After suffering a double tragedy in 2014, followed by a major restructuring, layoffs and a new organisation in place since last year, Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) are flying the skies more confidently.
That confidence came through in an interview MAB chief executive officer Peter Bellew gave to the BBC last week, where he said the airline aims to make a profit in the next two years.
Additionally, he believes that the ultimate benchmark of the company’s recovery would be seeing it return to the stock market, possibly by 2019.
Having taken over the helm of Malaysia’s national carrier since June this year, Bellew has his hands full trying to bring a firm management style to what has been a more soft Asian approach for years.
He said this was particularly in the way the company dealt with suppliers.
“We’re being quite aggressive with suppliers, sometimes quite rude and ignorant, maybe, in the way we are approaching negotiations now, which isn’t always the Asian way,” he was quoted as saying in the interview.
The aggressive approach works well in the overall management of the company, and especially in regaining the people that matter, customers.
On that note, Bellew said the main priority is to try and win back passengers and sell more tickets.
“I think there are certain people who may never travel with us again, but the bulk of people would consider it now.
“We were quite quiet on the sales and marketing front and generally on the commercial side we were shy and hiding. So the last four months we’ve come out very aggressively,” he told the BBC.
Bellew was also very specific in recognising the market that MAB needs to capitalise on.
“The airline needs to focus on the rise in travel among the people from China. It is a ‘megatrend; that would move the company to profit more quickly,” he said, conceding however, that Asia was a crowded market place and the airline had its work cut out, even within Malaysia.
“The bit that we’re struggling with is amazingly low fares in the domestic market. This is super for consumers but it makes it very difficult for us in the airlines.”
Taking a look back at the events of 2014, Bellew said the impact is still felt among the staff.
“For ourselves and the staff here its obviously deeply personal so day-to-day it never leaves.
“But to be able to survive two immense tragedies like that, that takes some backbone. Certainly in aviation its unprecedented what we’re having to do here,” he told the BBC.
He admitted many people would not have expected Malaysia Airlines to continue to stay in business after the disasters, more so when passengers deserted them in droves.
According to the BBC, with most of the fat having been trimmed from the airline, the turnaround in its fortunes can be attribtuted to the financial know-how Bellew brings from the European no-frills airline Ryanair.
Malaysia Airlines lost two Boeing 777s and almost 30 crew members, let alone over 500 passengers in 2014 from a double tragedy.
The first, on March 8, was MH370, the inexplicable disappearance of an aircraft that is yet to be found for the most part.
The second, on July 17, was the unfortunate circumstance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, with flight MH17 being shot down over Ukraine by a Russian-made missile shot by allegedly Ukrainian rebels who are friendly to the Russian government.