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CEO given free hand

Jonathan Chia, reporters@theborneopost.com

Bellew says there has been no meddling by government or Khazanah Nasional when helming Malaysia Airlines

Peter Bellew (File Photo)

KUCHING: There has been no interference from the government or Khazanah Nasional Bhd during his time as chief executive officer (CEO) of Malaysia Airlines, Peter Bellew stressed.

“They have been incredibly supportive to me personally and corporately. I tried to be transparent on a daily basis, included them in most significant meetings and dragged their staff to work for us! It has worked well. There has been no interference. Although possibly I drove Khazanah mad with my constant questions and wish for consensus.

“I cannot thank them enough for accelerating our transformation. (Khazanah Nasional managing director) Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar could not have been more supportive. ‘Terima kasih’ Khazanah,” he said.

He added that love for his country was the deciding factor for him to leave the national carrier.

In his personal response to media queries, Bellew disclosed that he got a call from Ryanair late evening two weeks ago to be chief operations officer (COO).

“It is Ireland’s greatest company. They need my help and there is a big challenge. It is a form of national service. When I was asked on Sept 27 would I go to Ryanair I said no.

“But a week later the call came and in life we can really never say never. I am looking forward to being close again to my family and friends 14 hours away in Ireland,” he said.

Bellew described Malaysia Airlines as “special”, stating that it is not just an airline but one of the earliest symbols of the vibrancy of this amazing country.

“People who have never flown in their life, love it. Most of the country hopes it will thrive and be the pride of the nation again. It is a tough job to fix it.

“Success is just within our grasp. Just another four to five per cent in revenue monthly and it should move to profits. Not always easy to gain but in the second quarter revenue increased seven per cent.”

He said although the product is improving visibly – new wide body planes, new lounges, new loyalty programme, new website and better operations in Kuala Lumpur, there is still some work needed on the food.

“Lots done – lots more to do. Please don’t change the brand!  Much work has been done globally through the media and travel agents to rebuild our heritage.  People love what Malaysia Airlines stands for.

“The brand is now revived from China to the UK and down to Australia. That work must continue and will yield the five per cent plus revenue growth.”

Meanwhile, Bernama reported that the decision of Bellew to rejoin Ireland-based Ryanair Holdings plc was unexpected but it would not affect Malaysia Airlines’ transformation agenda.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the ministry had not received any information about Bellew’s departure, and was still waiting for the full report from the national carrier.

“It is (shocking) because I did not receive any hint. So I would like to find out details first because I do not have the report from Malaysia Airlines. But we are confident MAS’ transformation would continue, irrespective of who is going to be the next CEO or COO, MAS’s transformation is on the agenda.

“We are doing all right, MAS is doing okay,” he told reporters during the Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MAICCI) Deepavali Open House in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

On Tuesday, Ryanair, in a statement, said that Bellew would rejoin the Irish airline as COO, taking over responsibility for Ryanair’s flight operations, ground operations and engineering.

Meanwhile, Liow, when asked about the possibility of the CEO replacement, said it all depended on Khazanah Nasional Bhd as it was the airline’s major shareholder.

“No report on that (the replacement of MAS’ CEO)…that will depend on Khazanah,” he said.