Malaysia Airlines will name chief operating officer and former Ryanair executive Peter Bellew as the ailing national carrier’s chief executive as early as this week, The Star newspaper reported.
Outgoing CEO Christoph Mueller is due to leave in September, having been hired only last year to lead the carrier’s recovery from the twin blows of the disappearance of flight MH370 and the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Malaysia Airlines declined to comment on the newspaper report. State fund Khazanah, which took the company private in 2014, referred queries to the airline.
Analysts say the appointment of Bellew – who joined the airline a few months after Mueller in September 2015 – is unlikely to affect the carrier’s turnaround plan.
“For the company and the stakeholders, it would be an extension of their turnaround plans because Bellew was the person who was doing much of the day-to-day operations,” said Shukor Yusof, founder of Malaysia-based consultancy Endau Analytics.
However, the appointment of another foreigner to head the national airline could stir controversy, after some Malaysians took offence at remarks Mueller made to a German radio station about workers sleeping on the job and having “nothing to do”.
“The person with the right credentials has to be given the job. That said, there is no shortage of Malaysians with those qualifications,” Shukor said.
Mueller, a German hailed as a turnaround specialist, sacked 6,000 staff as part of his strategy to get Malaysia Airlines back on its feet. He announced his decision to quit in April, citing personal reasons.