After 3 years, MH370 search ends with no plane, few answers

Caption: In this image taken from video, police officers looking over a piece of debris from a plane, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (AP/Reunion 1ere)
Caption: In this image taken from video, police officers looking over a piece of debris from a plane, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (AP/Reunion 1ere)

HONG KONG (AP) – Nearly three years after twin disasters took it to the brink of financial collapse, Malaysia Airlines’ new CEO says an overhaul aimed at turning the ailing carrier around is going better than expected.

The search for the airline’s Flight 370 that went missing in March 2014 with 239 people on board was suspended Tuesday.

Speaking before the search was called off, CEO Peter Bellew called the disaster an “awful tragedy.”

“There’s people I work with every day who lost some of their friends, so they’re living with that,” he said when asked about it Tuesday. “We owe it to the people that lost their lives and the families and everything to make sure that the place is a success and that it survives, because that’s the right thing to do,” Bellew said when asked about the disaster at an industry gathering in Hong Kong.

Bellew did not mention the Flight 370 disaster or the loss of another Boeing 777 carrying 298 people that was shot down over Ukraine months later in his speech to the group.

He said the airline is on track to meet key performance goals, including turning an annual profit by 2018 and relisting on the stock exchange the following year.

The company’s jets are carrying more passengers, including on its London route, he said. London is the carrier’s last remaining long-haul route and the only one where it uses superjumbo Airbus A380 jets that must carry many passengers to be profitable.

The tragedies in 2014 deepened the carrier’s already daunting troubles.

An unsustainable network of routes, high operating costs and archaic online systems were symptoms of chronic mismanagement that had saddled the airline with at least $1.7 billion in losses since 2011.

Bellew’s predecessor Cristoph Mueller, who left the job unexpectedly early in June, described the airline as a “ship that has many leaks.”

Updates on the finances of the airline are scant: it was delisted from the stock exchange in 2014 and radically restructured with 6 billion ringgit ($1.5 billion) in government support.

But lower jet fuel prices have since helped cut costs, and revenue has improved thanks to strong traffic growth in the region.

Bellew said an old fashioned sales and marketing blitz helped bring back customers. So did revamping inflight menus and bringing in lie-flat business class seats for the A380s.

“Tremendous result, tremendous improvement for us,” he said. “Our planes are so full at the moment that our own staff are not able to use their standby tickets.”

The airline’s load factor, an indicator of how many seats are sold, averaged 82 percent in the most recent quarter and rose to 90 percent in December, Bellew said. Airlines with a load factor higher than 80 percent are generally profitable, analysts say.

Just over a year ago the airline was operating 737s with five and 10 passengers on board. In late 2015, its A380s, which can carry nearly 400 passengers, were flying to London with just 50 to 60, he said.

Bellew said the airline’s lucrative business class bookings for the next six months were double those of a year earlier. He attributed the improvement to having apologized for the typical airline practice of putting cheaper fares on its company website instead of giving them to agents.

“I personally apologized. I’m sure they thought I was nuts,” he said.

NBC4i.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s