Malaysia Airlines may lose CEO Bellew to Ryanair (Update)

Malaysia Airline CEO Peter Bellew at the press conference yesterday on MAS fleet strategy

KUALA LUMPUR: Peter Bellew, who has been Malaysia Airlines Bhd group managing director and chief executive officer for less than 1½ years, is rejoining former employer Ryanair Holdings PLC as chief operations officer, according to the Irish low-cost carrier.

In a filing with the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday, Ryanair said the Irishman, who left Ryanair in 2014 as director (flight operations), would “join the Ryanair team in Dublin from Friday, Dec 1.”

The airline, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, said he would take over responsibility for all Ryanair’s flight operations, ground operations and engineering but “with a specific responsibility for pilot production, training and career development with a mission to ensure that the pilot rostering failure which Ryanair suffered in early September will never be repeated.”

In the statement, Bellew was quoted as saying: “I am excited to return home to Ryanair and take up the challenge to grow the operation sustainably. I look forward to working with all the team and all the crews I know so well to further develop our growth to 600 aircraft over the next six years.”

Ryanair’s statement took the Malaysia Airlines board by surprise, calling the announcement “unexpected” in a media statement issued on Tuesday evening.

Malaysia Airlines noted that Bellew had publicly “expressed his commitment to Malaysia Airlines” at a press conference with Malaysian and international media on Sept 27 when asked on speculation that he would re-join Ryanair. 

“He said that he was happy to be in Malaysia and that the turnaround of Malaysia Airlines would be ‘the greatest achievement of my life’,” the national carrier added.

Malaysia Airlines said its board of directors would meet and an announcement would be made in due course.

It assured that its operations and services would continue as normal, and that its commitment and priority remained with its customers. 

“The turnaround of Malaysia Airlines remains on track and on schedule, as per the MAS Recovery Plan,” the airline said.

Bellew was appointed to his current post at Malaysia Airlines effective July 1 last year. He took over from Christoph Mueller, who officially left the airline on Sept 1, 2016 (he began his leave when Bellew became CEO).

Bellew was brought in by Mueller as part of the Malaysia Airlines management team on Sept 1, 2015, as chief operations officer, just a few months after he himself joined the ailing airline.

While Mueller stayed as MD and CEO for only about one year too, the German national gave a six-month notice on stepping down due to “a change in his personal circumstances”.
* For Malaysia Airlines’ response, read Malaysia Airlines says RyanAir’s statement on Bellew ‘unexpected’
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