Malaysia Airlines in turmoil after CEO’s shock exit

The average flight ticket price from peninsular to Sabah and Sarawak is around RM160 (US$40) .Source: Shutterstock

LAST WEEK, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) outgoing chief executive officer Peter Bellew left the company after just over a year of trying to turn the airline around.

Bellew is slated to rejoin Ryanair where he formerly served as director of flight operations. The Irish national quoted his “love for the country” as a reason for his departure at MAS, and added that he couldn’t turn down the request to repair the struggling Ryanair.

“It is Ireland’s greatest company. They need my help and there is a big challenge. It is a form of national service,” he said in a statement released in his personal capacity and not on behalf of Malaysia Airlines, according to Reuters.

The Irish airline, the largest in Europe by passenger numbers, has in recent weeks disrupted the plans of more than 700,000 passengers by failing to have enough standby pilots to ensure the smooth operation of its schedule.

The logistical disaster resulted in the airline’s chief operations officer Michael Hickey to resign; Hickey had been with the company for just under 30 years.

Meanwhile, Bellew’s exit follows the pattern of former CEO Christoph Mueller’s sudden resignation after less than a year with MAS. Captain Izham Ismail has been swiftly appointed to replace Bellew as group chief executive officer; he will be the third person to take the CEO job in two years.

MAS has been struggling to cut losses after two global disasters. After being in the red for four quarters straight, MAS announced that it had recorded a RM1.2-billion loss (US$270 million) in 2013. It attributed this to stiff competition.

SEE ALSO: Malaysia Airlines’ path to recovery: A journey of reflection after a global crisis

Two weeks after the announcement, Flight MH370 disappeared with 227 passengers on-board; presently, it’s been called the most mysterious case of a missing plane in aviation history. Five months later, Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine. A total of 537 lives were lost.

The airline’s dramatic loss at the end of 2014 could not solely be attributed to the two aviation disasters that struck that year. However, the incidents, coupled with already troubling circumstances, dealt the airline a damning hand.