Malaysia Airlines makes first monthly profit in years

Peter-BellewHONG KONG: Malaysia Airlines made a profit last month, the first monthly profit in several years, and is well on the road to recovery following two aircraft tragedies and management problems.

Its chief executive Peter Bellew said Tuesday they were working towards a March 2019 target date for an initial public stock offering.

The company was delisted from Bursa Malaysia when it was acquired by state investment fund Khazanah Nasional at the end of 2014 in order to carry out a revamp.

Bellew was quoted by the Nikkei Asian Review (NAR) as saying:”We made a profit last month. We expect the last quarter this year to break even or to make a profit across the quarter. Currently I’m projecting to make a profit across next year.”

In a speech to an aviation industry group in Hong Kong Tuesday, Bellew said no airline had been through what it had been through, referring particularly to two fatal crashes the airline experienced in 2014.

MH370 is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean after having diverted from its original route on March 8, with 239 people on board, comprising 227 passengers and 12 crew members. It went missing while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

MH17, with 283 passengers and 15 crew members, was shot down by Russian-made missiles, believed to have been used by pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, on July 17.

Officials from Malaysia, Australia and China said in a joint announcement on Tuesday that the almost three-year underwater search for flight MH370 had been suspended.

According to the NAR report, Bellew is working on a management succession plan as some Malaysians are uncomfortable that the national airline has had two foreign chief executives in a row.

He was quoted as saying five or six Malaysians at the company, who would be able “to take over from me in a couple years’ time”, had been shortlisted

Bellew’s efforts in improving the management and work culture, including at the baggage and maintenance departments, and a marketing strategy to attract Malaysians to fly on its planes again, has worked.

About a year ago, Bellew said, the company was flying Boeing 737 jets with only 5-10 passengers on board some flights.

Last December, however, the company, overall, filled 90% of seats and 82% of seats in the last quarter, the NAR report said.

Business bookings are running at double that a year ago, according to Bellew.

Malaysia Airlines placed an order for 25 Boeing 737s in July, with an option for 25 more.