With nerves of steel, Chief Executive Officer Peter Bellew steers the course to return Malaysia Airlines to glory.
The call to lead Malaysia Airlines – what were your first thoughts?
Give it my best shot. If you are going to take on a challenge well it might as well be the biggest one you can find. I guess life is not complete unless your heart skips a beat. I thought it would be a huge amount of hard work but I am not afraid of that.
What are your priorities right now for the airline?
Safety is always the number one priority and we are massively focused on that with multiple initiatives. Second is making the customers happy. That goes from making it easy to book a flight at a great price to ensuring a great customer experience. Thirdly, lifting staff morale is essential. The Malaysia Airlines family is now focused on making our business the pride of the nation again.
How is the new Malaysia Airlines progressing?
We are a bit ahead of our financial projections for the new Malaysia Airlines. Many customer service improvements have taken place in 2016 with more to follow in 2017. Customers are giving us positive feedback on the new food offering, new seats, better punctuality and improved timetables. The mood is good and we are looking forward to a positive 2017.
What changes will we see to the business product soon?
On our wide-body Airbus aircraft, we are completing the installation of new fully lie-flat bed seats in business class. The new product has been very popular since we rolled it out. Customers are enjoying getting five hours or more sleep after enjoying our wonderful Malaysian cuisine. It has given a big boost to our business on the Australia, New Zealand, Japan and India routes. Super new menus for business travellers are now available on all our flights.
Will you have any new aircraft arriving in 2017?
Yes. We start delivery of the wonderful Airbus A350 aircraft in 2017. This is a large wide-body plane with incredible comfort for customers in all classes. We have ordered six aircraft and they will operate to London and within Australia and Asia. The A350 has amazing space, light and mood on board. There are fewer pillars, wider seats and aisles. A super new IFE system is embedded in the floor, which gives more seat space. In 2019, we have the first delivery of the new Boeing 737Max, which will also have lie-flat beds in business class.
Why did you do a deal with Liverpool Football Club?
Liverpool are one of the most popular sports clubs across all of Asia. In Malaysia, they have been a much-loved brand for the last 50 years. The club has a family ethos that matches the Malaysia Airlines culture. Our airline is rapidly expanding across China where Liverpool are incredibly popular. The global partnership with Liverpool Football Club will rapidly give exposure to Malaysia Airlines. It is a great opportunity for us to expand our Business internationally.
How important is Malaysia as a destination for Malaysia Airlines?
Malaysia is an incredible country full of every imaginable experience for visitors. There is a wonderful tourism product range and I think the industry is just starting with huge potential for growth. For Malaysia Airlines, we are just scratching the surface of the opportunity of this remarkable country.
Anything upcoming for the Enrich loyalty programme?
It will be easier to redeem Enrich points in 2017 and we will be more generous with the points awarded particularly for business travellers. Our sister airline FireFly, which operates superb business services from the Subang Skypark Terminal, will join Enrich in 2017. There will be a range of great offers for members and we plan to expand the number of partners by 20 percent in 2017.
Are you starting a low-cost airline?
No. Our economy service is great value for money. Malaysia Airlines offers incredible value for money with our all-inclusive fares in economy starting from just USD25 (RM99). Our fares include a 30kg bag allowance, a meal, all airport taxes and credit card charges. Other airlines offer fares, which when you add on all the extras, are often higher than Malaysia Airlines.
What expansion do you plan in 2017?
The global megatrend in tourism is China. Malaysia Airlines will start nine new routes to China in 2017 with direct services from Penang to both Shenzhen and Shanghai. Kota Kinabalu will see a new service to Tianjin. Kuala Lumpur will get new services to Haikou, Nanjing, Fuzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu and Chongqing. Chinese visitors love to visit Malaysia where many people speak their language, restaurants serve their favourite food, and they get incredible value for money. In most cases, flights are under four hours and prices start from just USD39 (RM173). We are looking at some other route opportunities in ASEAN as airport charges have dropped in Malaysia recently.
What are your hopes and dreams for the airline and the staff?
We are a very united family at Malaysia Airlines. We have faced remarkable challenges and are starting to see great progress in 2016. It is getting better every day and I am confident we can rebuild Malaysia Airlines to being the pride of the nation again.
Watch the CEO’s interview in the business channel on your in-flight entertainment system for more insights.