Mueller gets into early action to turn around Malaysia Airlines

Christoph R. Mueller, to be appointed as MAS NewCos CEO

PETALING JAYA: Christoph Mueller, the man who is supposed to help turn the new Malaysia Airlines (MAS) around, has been in town since Friday.

He is scheduled to attend MAS’ board meeting early this morning and afterwards meet the current senior team at the airline, sources said.

It would be his and Datuk Seri Shazalli Ramly’s first board meeting since their appointment to the MAS board on Jan 1 this year.

Shazalli is currently the chief executive officer of Celcom Axiata Bhd, while Mueller is head of Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus. Mueller will take over as CEO of the new MAS on March 1.

Over the weekend, Mueller met up with those involved in the restructuring of MAS and the team presented their updates.

All these meetings will give him a good grip on matters so that he can get back and mull over what his business plan and organisational structure should look like. He will have to finally assemble his team and come up with the business direction for the airline going forward.

He has been credited for the turnaround of Aer Lingus and Belgium’s Sabena, but turning MAS around, as some aviation experts have said, is not going to be easy simply because the airline had suffered two unprecedentend air disasters last year, meaning that a whole lot of rebuilding is needed. Prior to that, MAS’ books were heavily tainted with red ink too.

“But he has the knowledge and expertise, although a lot depends on whom he selects as part of his new team,” said a source.

His mandate, according to another source, is to turn the airline around and groom a successor, and hence, the appointment of Shazalli. Shazalli could be a possible successor in the years to come.

“What we understand is that he has been given almost full autonomy to select his team and run the airline with no political interference, or else, why should he take up a job halfway around the world? All this is also facilitated by the creation of the MAS Act,” added the source.

A new law called the MAS Act was passed in parliament in late November to facilitate the carrier’s rescue plan.

While here, perhaps Mueller should take some time to check out the method deployed in the selection process of employees for the newco, as there are several modes deployed. The methods include one-on-one interviews with consultants based on a superior’s recommendation and via an online survey. “Whatever they do, they should make it transparent so that those affected know it and don’t feel that they have been shortchanged,” said the source.

MAS will axe 6,000 out of 20,000 employees when migration to the newco takes place. This is part of the 12-point strategy announced by Khazanah Nasional Bhd, its major shareholder.

Apart from all these work meetings, those in the know claim he may want to check out places to live in when he finally arrives in March.


Across The Star Online