Quitting Malaysia Airlines CEO said frustrated from political meddling

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MALAYSIA-AUSTRALIA-CHINA-AVIATION-SEARCHMalaysian Airlines chief executive offer Christoph Mueller, who decided to resign from his post after less than one year of leading the carrier’s reorganising efforts, is said to be frustrated from political interference and criticism that his efforts so far had “no immediate effect” on the airlines’ performance.

Mueller will continue to serve until September 2016 and will stay on the airline’s board as a non-executive director to oversee the transition to a new CEO. The airline, solely owned by Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional, has already begun to look for a new CEO and says it is considering both internal and external candidates.

A veteran of a turnaround effort at Ireland’s Aer Lingus, Mueller was charged with reviving Malaysia Airlines in May 2015 at a time when the airlines suffered from huge financial losses racked up over years, as well as two major disasters in 2014 when flight MH370 disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is still missing and flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine. At the time he took over, the carrier was, as he put it, “technically bankrupt.”

Mueller’s role was to oversee a $1.56-billion turnaround plan which included massive job cuts and dropping unprofitable destinations. He cut 6,000 jobs, reduced salaries and trimmed network capacity by 30 per cent, but has been criticised by the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia that, apart from the airline losing “key people” to the competition, no “significant changes” were instituted.

Mueller himself requested to step down before the end of his three-year contract, citing “personal reasons,” but observes feel that this just happened to help the company and with it the Malaysian government to “save face” over problems with political interference in a job likened a “mission impossible.”

In a statement on April 20, the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia said that Mueller likely quit so soon because of “heavy politics” in the airline, adding that it was “not surprised” with his decision to leave sooner than his contract stipulated, but never thought it would be “so soon.”

In the statement, union members also speculated that Mueller could possibly have not been able to cope with the various problems plaguing the airline although in February he announced that the carrier made its first “small monthly profit in many years.”

“As we predicted last year, there is more than just having to recover losses. It’s about the legacies and politics that get in his way. We were informed that ideas were ditched at the last minute and U-turn decisions made without proper consultation with Mueller,” the union members said, adding that competition with AirAsia and other international airlines could have also played a role in influencing Mueller to leave so soon.

“The most experienced and qualified staff from Malaysia Airlines are now serving at AirAsia, Malindo and even helping to build other airlines,” the union noted.

However, Mueller in an interview in February insisted that Malaysia Airlines was “on track to return to profitability” as restructuring efforts were “proceeding as planned” and the company had finished laying off employees. He added that the carrier even wanted to buy and own some aircraft once its targets are met, as its existing fleet structure is currently skewed toward leased planes.

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Malaysian Airlines chief executive offer Christoph Mueller, who decided to resign from his post after less than one year of leading the carrier's reorganising efforts, is said to be frustrated from political interference and criticism that his efforts so far had "no immediate effect" on the airlines' performance. Mueller will continue to serve until September 2016 and will stay on the airline's board as a non-executive director to oversee the transition to a new CEO. The airline, solely owned by Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional, has already begun to look for a new CEO and says it is considering both...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

MALAYSIA-AUSTRALIA-CHINA-AVIATION-SEARCHMalaysian Airlines chief executive offer Christoph Mueller, who decided to resign from his post after less than one year of leading the carrier’s reorganising efforts, is said to be frustrated from political interference and criticism that his efforts so far had “no immediate effect” on the airlines’ performance.

Mueller will continue to serve until September 2016 and will stay on the airline’s board as a non-executive director to oversee the transition to a new CEO. The airline, solely owned by Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional, has already begun to look for a new CEO and says it is considering both internal and external candidates.

A veteran of a turnaround effort at Ireland’s Aer Lingus, Mueller was charged with reviving Malaysia Airlines in May 2015 at a time when the airlines suffered from huge financial losses racked up over years, as well as two major disasters in 2014 when flight MH370 disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is still missing and flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine. At the time he took over, the carrier was, as he put it, “technically bankrupt.”

Mueller’s role was to oversee a $1.56-billion turnaround plan which included massive job cuts and dropping unprofitable destinations. He cut 6,000 jobs, reduced salaries and trimmed network capacity by 30 per cent, but has been criticised by the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia that, apart from the airline losing “key people” to the competition, no “significant changes” were instituted.

Mueller himself requested to step down before the end of his three-year contract, citing “personal reasons,” but observes feel that this just happened to help the company and with it the Malaysian government to “save face” over problems with political interference in a job likened a “mission impossible.”

In a statement on April 20, the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia said that Mueller likely quit so soon because of “heavy politics” in the airline, adding that it was “not surprised” with his decision to leave sooner than his contract stipulated, but never thought it would be “so soon.”

In the statement, union members also speculated that Mueller could possibly have not been able to cope with the various problems plaguing the airline although in February he announced that the carrier made its first “small monthly profit in many years.”

“As we predicted last year, there is more than just having to recover losses. It’s about the legacies and politics that get in his way. We were informed that ideas were ditched at the last minute and U-turn decisions made without proper consultation with Mueller,” the union members said, adding that competition with AirAsia and other international airlines could have also played a role in influencing Mueller to leave so soon.

“The most experienced and qualified staff from Malaysia Airlines are now serving at AirAsia, Malindo and even helping to build other airlines,” the union noted.

However, Mueller in an interview in February insisted that Malaysia Airlines was “on track to return to profitability” as restructuring efforts were “proceeding as planned” and the company had finished laying off employees. He added that the carrier even wanted to buy and own some aircraft once its targets are met, as its existing fleet structure is currently skewed toward leased planes.

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