Malaysia Airlines:What Mueller could not do

April 28, 2016

Malaysia Airlines:What Mueller could not do

by Marion Tharsis

Khazanah Nasional Berhad probably expected too much from Christoph Mueller when it hired him to work his charm on MAS. Despite his glorious past, the turnaround expert probably didn’t count on the work culture and ethics and, most of all, the political environment in a government-linked company.

Mueller made all the obvious moves. He trimmed the work force, removed unwanted suppliers and closed unprofitable routes. What he could not do was remove political control. He probably learned soon enough that it would be futile to continue with his work, with so many hands pulling him from all sides to do their bidding.

Another person may try his or her hand at making MAS profitable again, but the same pressures will reduce the CEO’s position to that of a puppet to be manipulated.

So our once glorious airline is back to square one. The competition is overwhelming. Other carriers, including our very own AirAsia, are always looking into ways to make their companies more profitable through innovation.

We should not expect too much from the incoming CEO. He or she may be prevented from cleaning up certain kinds of mess. For example, he or she might not get a free hand to select a management team that would be capable of taking MAS on the path of good and solid governance.

An airline cannot run effectively merely on superficial changes. It needs an operating system that is smooth, unhampered, cohesive, innovative, customer focused, and competitive. Only then can it stay afloat in a tight and narrow market and play on a field that keeps re-inventing itself.

An airline that is subject to too much political control will keep failing and continue to be an embarrassment.

Marion Tharsis is a  FMT reader.



9 thoughts on “Malaysia Airlines:What Mueller could not do

  1. We have plenty of capable people to take on the job of CEO. Topping the list is of course the great Rahman Dahlan. He fits the bill.

  2. Sell Malaysia Airlines to Singapore Airlines and make it
    MSA again ! (Minus interference from 1Malaysia
    ruling regime politicians-cum-crooks).

    Back to the future 🙂

  3. We never seem to want to learn and keep on repeating the same tricks. We busy ourselves with endless talks. With poor outcomes, we then busy ourselves with excuses and blaming – but they all talks nevertheless. With the present status quo in the country’s leadership, can we expect different outcome? To change takes guts and those with credible qualifications would not touch it with ten foot pole knowing that it and overwhelming surrounding and operating cultural mileau will remain the same.

  4. Good morning all.
    I 100 percent agreed on the article. Not only MAS or MAB that failed, just look around and we’ll see there are more damaged done by these political issues. Just look what happens to our Tabung Haji. KWSP. and dont forget IMDB of course National football team just to quote a few and the list could goes on.
    Whatever these MIDAS touched, you will see the damages.
    Malaysia just unlucky to be in this unfinished mess.

  5. Politically controlled GLCs may never be able to be self sustaining as they maybe more often used more to serve the interests of the political masters rather than be ‘commercial’ entities with the objective of being independent. Thus it is common for such GLCs to be bailed out at taxpayers’ expense. This is evidenced by the many bailouts granted in the so-called developed countries with advise of experts that bailouts of the rich is critical for the good of the country.

    Though the GLCs may be given State Assets at nominal costs which then may be disposed off for high profits and the profits diverted to private pockets via accounting meandering and juggling and there may always be sufficient number of accounting/tax experts willing to sell their integrity and souls for a share of the ‘immorally’ plundered profits.

    Political-Corporate-Professional-Religious leaders may mostly work for own interest to satisfy personal greed as is evidenced by the wealth-income equality between the rich and poor where the 0.001% own/control the world’s 99.99% of the world wealth.

    Reports of Wall Street companies and the RBS was well explained in a recently shown movie ‘The Emperor’s New Cloths’ and also an earlier movie specific to Wall Street bailouts.

  6. The big picture is this, the more they do to protect Malaysia Airlines, the more it comes at the cost of being the leader in low cost airline that Air Asia has build itself in the region. Its goes at the hear of what is wrong with UMNO/BN ideology – compromise really ends up being mediocrity no better advertised by Najib in fact the entire line-up of UMNO/BN leaders..

  7. I have said it before and I say it now: MAB will only go forward with
    the exit of Khazanah and UMNO, who think that it is their god-given right to squeeze the airline of every penny, and then wonder why the airline is not making profit. C. Mueller was just following the script prepared by khazanah. Not anymore, because he does not want whatever reputation left, to be shred to bits. Even after the exit of khazanah and umno, don’t expect the airline to bounce back overnight. It is going to take years to rebuild a once recognized international airline. Khazanah and umno (not BN, because the other parties in BN are irrelevant) have virtually destroyed an airline the staff had worked so hard over the years to build.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.