KUALA LUMPUR: Peter Bellew, the chief executive officer of Malaysia Airlines, feels what he is doing with the airline is probably the greatest turnaround in business history.
As part of the national airline’s revamp, Bellew has been cutting costs, improving workflow and efficiency, and cutting jobs. He even plans to turn its fleet of A380 superjumbo jets into charter planes for Muslim pilgrims.
Malaysia Airlines, which was struggling due to debts and two air tragedies in 2014 that almost brought it to its knees, is finally making progress.
After the disasters – one flight went missing and still remains a mystery, while another was shot down over Ukraine – Malaysia Airlines was taken off the stock market and made private by sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional.
Bellew hopes to list its shares again by 2019.
“I think this will be the greatest turnaround in the history of aviation and maybe even of any business,” Bellew told CNNMoney’s Richard Quest.
“I don’t believe people in the [United] States or in Europe quite get the scale of the economy that there is here,” said Bellew, who sees Malaysia growing as a transit hub for the rest of the region.
One of the innovative ways in which he is going about revamping the airline is by retooling its A380s. Next year, the six superjumbos will be retired from normal service and offered for charter by groups undertaking pilgrimages to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Once overhauled, the planes can carry as many as 715 passengers. They will have a business class section, prayer areas and washing zones for feet and hands.
“We are trying to capture 5-6% of the global market, which is growing all the time. People save to go to this for up to 30 years, and we’ve got great interest in the product already,” Bellew told CNN.
The company is succeeding in winning back passengers. At the end of last year, it hit its highest load factor – a measure of how full its planes are – in a decade, according to the report.