Malaysia Airlines rebrand targets business travellers

12 Nov 2015 by GrahamSmith

Malaysia Airlines CEO Christoph Mueller plans to attract business passengers with a "good schedule" and by growing its Kuala Lumpur base.

Mueller was appointed chief executive of the troubled airline in December 2014, just months after it suffered two devastating back-to-back aviation disasters.

He is now tasked with a considerable rebranding strategy.

At a recent press conference, Mueller remained tight-lipped, though, on what passengers would likely see.

He said: "I believe rebranding has two angles – the more important one is really the internal rebranding, expressed by new values and behaviour by our people.

"The internal rebranding is as important as the colour scheme you see on the outside of the aircraft. I don't want to disclose much more at this point in time."

Mueller did go on, however, to discuss what Malaysia Airlines is doing well, and what it could improve, when it comes to attracting business travellers.

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."

Earlier this month, the carrier unveiled a new generation flat bed business class product, which will be introduced on the airline's A330-300 in April 2016 (see news, November 3).

Mueller also highlighted the fact that its home base has plenty of room to grow.

"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," he said.

"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."

What about the passenger experience?

Mueller said: "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.

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

"We will have to see whether to match 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 Hong Kong or Manila where nobody rents a car as it’s just too dangerous and you can wait hours for a taxi.”

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."

Jenny Southan

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