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Malaysia Airlines’ plan for winning back passengers

12 Nov 2015 by Clement Huang

Malaysia Airlines’ executive Christoph Mueller is still working through the changes necessary for Malaysia Airlines to recover, but isn’t giving away too many clues as to what these changes will be or how the airline will attract passengers back.

“I believe rebranding has two angles – the more important one is really the internal rebranding, expressed by new values and behaviour by our people,” he said at a recent press conference. “The internal rebranding is as important as the colour scheme you see on the outside of the aircraft.”

So what does this mean?

“I don’t want to disclose much more at this point in time.”

The little he did reveal involved what he thinks passengers will see from the “new” Malaysia Airlines.

He said: “Business travellers want – number one – a good schedule. A good schedule finds its expression in frequencies, and that is one of our unique selling points.”

He also highlighted the fact that if Malaysia Airlines does get it right, it has room to grow at its home base. “We have three runways in Kuala Lumpur, all with a separation of a mile so they can be operated irrespective of what is happening on the other runway.

“We have currently 65 movements per hour with three runways – Gatwick has one runway, and how many movements per hour? 55.

“Every airport in South East Asia is at capacity – we have only used one third of what’s possible. So we can grow in frequency where others have to grow in aircraft size.”

For passengers some good news has come with the introduction of a new business class on the carrier’s A330s (see here).

As reported here, Malaysia Airlines System (MAS) officially ceased all operations at the end of August with the new holding company Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) taking over complete control of Malaysia Airlines.

For passengers, however, the main changes so far have been a contracting of service. For instance the airline ceased operations of its lounges in Singapore and Perth. Business class passengers, as well as Enrich Platinum and Gold members, are now directed to the Premier Lounge in Terminal 2 at Singapore Changi Airport. Likewise, those in Perth are offered use of the Qantas International Business Lounge.

So what can passengers expect from Malaysia Airlines?

According to Mueller: “The other thing that attracts business travellers is a curbside-to-curbside solution and it starts with the booking process. We really need to improve our website – it is very clunky.”

End-to-end service suggests a limousine service, but this won’t necessarily be the case.

“We will have to see whether we match the competition with a limousine service. In Kuala Lumpur, for example, business travellers come with a chauffeur service but you might want to consider it in places like Manila where nobody rents a car as it’s just too dangerous and you can wait hours for a taxi.”

At the airport, the experience will be improved using technology.

“It is [about] hassle-free travel, a paperless airport. We have just piloted a project where every customer will be recognised via Bluetooth wherever the customer is in the airport.

He added: “We have to really get better but let us roll out our product improvements properly, step by step. I don’t want to say ‘travel with us because we will introduce it in the next 24 months’. I’d rather introduce it first.”

What about future trends for the aviation industry? Mueller said: “There is only one carrier in the United States not making money and that’s due to the fact that consolidation is really completed now.

“There are not many carriers in our region making money. From the top of the [perch, five years ago] we fell to the bottom and that is due in part to [over] capacity – airlines ordered too many aircraft.

“There is now a treacherous price war going on, throat cutting, and it will be there for the perceivable future. So my predicition for Asia-Pacific is there will be some involuntary consolidation taking place.

“The airline business is a Darwinistic place so only the strongest of us will survive.”

In terms of fares, all this is good news for passengers. Mueller said: “From a consumer point of view, travelling to and from Asia will be made extremely cheap, and travelling within the region will be made extremely cheap. So it’s a little bit of consumer heaven.”

For more information, visit malaysiaairlines.com

Jenny Southan

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