Malaysia Airlines CEO Mueller to Leave Before Contract Ends

  • Mueller to depart in September after joining airline last year
  • Carrier says it has already commenced search for new CEO

Malaysia Airlines Bhd. said Chief Executive Officer Christoph Mueller has resigned and will leave the company in September after taking the top post last year to turn around an airline that lost two jets in 2014.

Mueller requested to step down before the end of his three-year contract for personal reasons, the carrier said in a statement Tuesday. Malaysia Airlines said it has started a search for a new CEO, which will include internal and external candidates.

A veteran of a turnaround effort at Aer Lingus Group Plc in Ireland, Mueller took over Malaysia Airlines in March 2015, charged with reviving the carrier that was racking up losses even before hundreds of people died in two 2014 crashes. Malaysia’s government bought out small shareholders to delist the airline. After cutting 6,000 jobs, slashing pay and trimming capacity by 30 percent, Mueller said the major changes were done.

Malaysia Airlines is on track to return to profitability as the airline’s restructuring effort is proceeding as planned and the company is finished laying off employees, Mueller said in an interview in February. The carrier wants to buy and own some aircraft once its targets are met, as its existing fleet structure is skewed toward leased planes, he said.

Orderly Transition

Mueller intends to remain with the company as a non-executive director and will serve a six-month notice period to facilitate an orderly transition, the airline said.

“I am proud of what we have achieved as a team in such a short time,” Mueller was quoted as saying in the statement. “Unfortunately, personal circumstances will make it difficult for me to complete my full term.”

Malaysia Airlines made its first small monthly profit in “many years” in February and is on track to return to annual profits by 2018, Mueller wrote in a circular to staff on March 28. A network restructuring aimed at establishing the company’s Kuala Lumpur base as a hub for regional travel is 90 percent complete, he said in November.

Malaysia Airlines was already losing money before passenger confidence was shattered after Flight MH370 vanished on March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The carrier lost another aircraft when MH17 was shot down over Ukraine four months later.

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