KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) aims to at least break even this year despite facing global economic and geopolitical challenges, competition, and uncertainty in foreign exchange and fuel prices.
Group CEO Captain Izham Ismail said MAB’s current operations and finance are not yet viable, recording inconsistent monthly and weekly profits.
“No doubt we have reset ourselves, we’ve shrunk slightly, we will grow again, but (my) first job is to make this company sustainable again.
“We can still go to four corners of the world through good partnerships with other airlines, synergy with other airlines, but we taking few steps back and I don’t see why we can’t grow again,” he said in an interview on TV3 recently.
Izham said Malaysia Airlines is currently developing a medium-term strategy, which includes enhancing partnerships with other airlines to improve its network of routes.
Not only that, Malaysia Airlines is aware that it could not compete directly with low-cost airlines on several routes, as well as the need to switch to other routes more suited to its aircraft and business model.
However, for the time being, the main focus is to work with other major airlines that provide access to important routes in Europe besides India.
Currently MAB is planning to expand its operations to several new routes.
“While waiting for Malaysia Airlines to grow into a 120-airplane company, there must be an intermediate strategy, this is through partnership, as long as the 14,000 people and whole country (give the) support, there is no reason to fail,” he said.
Izham took over as group CEO on Dec 1. He is no stranger to the national carrier, having spent 38 years at the airline and handled 18 portfolios in the last 20 years.
Asked about the possibility of the national carrier being renamed as proposed by former CEO Christoph Mueller in 2015, Izham said the value of Malaysia Airlines is still strong.
“Our value (is) very strong, it’s our tradition, we are humble people, caring people, we help each other, we smile always, not negative towards others, I don’t see anything wrong with the brand, we probably had some issues in 2014, but the brand is stronger than ever (now),” he said.
Moving forward, Malaysia Airlines is expected to introduce three to four new routes a year to suit the specifications new aircraft that it would take delivery of.
In fact, Izham hinted that the airlines will introduce more different destinations and not only focus on certain markets.
“Malaysia Airlines needs to smartly distribute our basket equally, not only on Australia, not only Europe, we need also to focus on China, Indonesia, equally spread out our basket. If one region is not economical, we have other routes,” he said.
The restructuring plan of Malaysia Aviation Group, which includes MAB, will be announced at the end of March.
Currently, a detailed study is being carried out at the operational level of branches of all MAB’s subsidiaries, including Firefly, Maskargo and AeroDarat Services, to ensure that the organisation is restrengthened.
Izham said Malaysia Airlines should not be just one plan, but should be prepared with some plans, in order to face various possibilities.
With the exception of Maswings – whose mandate was given by the government to link Sabah’s and Sarawak’s cities with Peninsular Malaysia – the objectives of other subsidiaries in the group should be scrutinised.
“Moving forward, we are also reviewing what is the prime objective of Firefly, what’s the objective of AeroDarat, if it makes sense for MAB to have a cargo division. I am reviewing all these and then by the end of the first quarter, I’ll have a more concrete (picture), to make (the) organisation structurally stronger,” Izham said.
On Malaysia Airlines’ Project Amal (to cater specifically for haj and umrah pilgrims), which was introduced by his predecessor, he said it will be continued.
“We anticipate getting the licence at end-Q3 or Q4. Project Amal will commence operations with its planes, sometime in late 2018. Meanwhile, the assets will be utilised by MAB,” he said.
Projected as the world’s first airline to cater specifically and only to haj and umrah pilgrims, Projek Amal, which will use the Airbus A380, it will be on its own first, before opening potential cooperation and investment to outsiders.