MAB needs to step up, says new CEO Captain Izham

We have seen some progress, but there is still a long way to go, says the new chief

By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By AFIF ABD HALIM

Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) has much more to do before the national carrier could realise the goals set under Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s RM6 billion turnaround plan.

MAB new group CEO Captain Izham Ismail (picture) said the airline has made some progress based on the MAB Recovery Plan (MRP) as outlined by Khazanah, but the carrier must intensify its efforts to remain competitive.

“We have seen some progress (for the MRP), but there is still a long way to go,” Izham told The Malaysian Reserve.

Izham said MAB will continue to focus on the turnaround plan with emphasis on five priority areas.

The five priorities are — people, customer service, revenue, operations and safety.

He said the five focus areas would help tackle the rising fuel cost and volatility in foreign exchange (forex).

“Revenue is improving, but we need to step this up to address the rising costs from fuel and forex volatility,” he added.

Izham, who took the helm of the airline on Dec 1 last year after the sudden departure of Peter Bellew, was humbled by the appointment, despite the heavy responsibilities.

He was previously MAB’s COO.

Izham said he is aware of the high expectation from Malaysians who want to see the airline returning to its glorious days.

“I am backed by the 14,000 strong and determined Malaysia Airlines family. So, I am confident it can be done.

“We know what needs to be done. We just cannot afford to be distracted,” he said.

Two aircraft tragedies, four months apart in 2014, had severed MAB’s brand. In the first half of 2014 (1H14). the now-defunct Malaysian Airline System Bhd (MAS) reported a loss of RM750 million.

Prior to the tragedies, the national carrier was already in the red. High operating costs, empty seats and rising popularity of low-cost carriers saw the airline posting a cumulative net loss of RM8.4 billion between 2001 and June 2014.

In August 2014, the carrier’s sole shareholder Khazanah injected RM6 billion and introduced a 12-point recovery plan with the aim of reviving the battered carrier.

The airline had allocated RM1.4 billion for the MAS delisting, RM1.6 billion for restructuring and retrenchment cost, and RM3 billion as capital.

The airline had sent the old MAS into receivership, created MAB, appointed foreign CEOs, consolidated its operations from Kuala Lumpur Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport to Kuala Lumpur International Airport, retrenched 6,000 staff, axed unprofitable destinations and renegotiated thousands of contracts.

But the shock resignation of the two foreign CEOs, rising fuel costs and the ringgit’s depreciation early last year had posted additional challenges to the airline’s swift recovery.

However, MAB is expected to be profitable from 2H18.