Recently Khazanah Nasional, the Malaysian government investment arm, has made an unconventional decision to appoint a non-Malaysian, Christoph Muller into a top position of the new management of Malaysia Airlines (NewCo). The existing company (OldCo) will be abolished and its assets and operations will be transferred to NewCo. The new company (NewCo) that manages the airline will be named as Malaysia Airlines Berhad, replacing the loss-making existing company (OldCo), Malaysia Airline System Berhad.
We scoured the internet to find more information about our new Malaysia Airlines CEO-designate, Mr. Christoph Mueller. Below are some of our findings:
Career before Aer Lingus
While most of Malaysians are aware that Mr. Mueller comes from Aer Lingus, little is known about his previous career.
Christoph Mueller has a long list of credentials in aviation industry. Before his appointment to the board of executive management team in Aer Lingus, Mr. Mueller has held senior positions in big companies such as Daimler Benz Aerospace, Lufthansa AG, DHL and Deutsche Post AG. His previous role before appointment as the CEO of Aer Lingus is the Aviation Director at TUI Travel plc, a British leisure travel group (Source). He is also affiliated with Cosa Instrument Corporation (Source).
Appointment as Aer Lingus’ CEO
The German-born Christoph Müller (alternately spelt as Mueller) was appointed to the Irish airline on October 1st 2009 after its former CEO, Dermot Mannion resigned on April 6th 2009.
His vast experience in aviation industry has made him the right candidate for the position. This is necessary for the transformation of Aer Lingus, which had been embroiled in losses for three consecutive years, namely 2008, 2009 and 2010. Source
The transformation and success of Aer Lingus
In early 2000s, Aer Lingus was making good income, having scored four years of profitability from 2002 to 2005. However, it made losses from 2006 to 2008, leaving Aer Lingus an urgent need to transform itself and
Soon after his appointment, Mueller tried to solve internal problem within the company, which has resulted in unsuccessful negotiations with the worker’s union of the airline.
After Aer Lingus has entered the phase of profitability, Ryanair, another low-cost carrier popular in Europe, tried to acquire it. However the acquisition went unsuccessful due to several reasons such as opposition by company competition authorities.
Etihad, a leading Middle Eastern carrier, also partnered with Aer Lingus for codesharing, together with United Airlines, KLM, British Airways and Jetblue.
Next Step: Malaysia Airlines
The 52-year-old Mueller will start his new job at Malaysia Airlines from May 1st 2015. Analysts said it might be his toughest job ever, with Bloomberg.com describing it as “one of the toughest job in aviation” to lead a transformation effort of an airline that has lost two Boeing 777s with 537 passengers in just a year.
Mixed reaction can be seen from Malaysians. Some optimistic citizens voice out their support and solidarity with the restructuring plan while some others criticize the move. Among the ones who oppose the appointment is Malaysia’s former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.
Mark D. Martin, the chief executive officer of Martin Consulting LLC said Mueller “may need at least six to nine months to familiarize himself with the company and the culture of Southeast Asia” – Bloomberg News.
Mueller is seen to be the right person to do the job because he managed to turn around Aer Lingus into profitability in just one year while facing stiff competition with the region’s leading budget carrier, Ryanair. Meanwhile, the similar situation can be observed in Malaysia. Malaysia Airlines has already struggled to stay profitable due to stiff competition with the region’s leading budget carrier, AirAsia.