Malaysia Airlines’ CEO To Work For Emirates

Filed Under: Emirates, Malaysia

While there are plenty of struggling airlines, the one I probably feel worst for is Malaysia Airlines. The airline had already been losing money for years, and then they lost two Boeing 777 aircraft just months apart, which is just about an unprecedented tragedy.

Probably the smartest thing the airline did in a while is hire Christoph Mueller as their CEO, who is known as one of the industry’s best “crisis CEOs.” He turned around Aer Lingus, and had a three year contract at Malaysia Airlines, where he started as CEO on May 1, 2015.

He has made radical changes to the airline, including huge layoffs, transferring all assets to a new companyretiring the entire 777 fleet, installing a new longhaul business class product, entering into a partnership with Emirates for longhaul flying, going dry on short-haul flights, and much more.

Malaysia Airlines 777, all of which have been retired

Ultimately the changes are working, because Malaysia turned their first monthly profit in years this February, and is still hoping to be profitable by 2018.

However, in April it was announced that Christoph Mueller would be leaving Malaysia Airlines before his contract expired due to “personal reasons.” He’ll be leaving in September, which is about halfway through his contract.

On one hand we should respect that he quit for “personal reasons.” At the same time that’s almost always the reason executives give for leaving companies. For what it’s worth, I have a friend very close to the situation who said the reason he quit was because he could no longer handle the culture of corruption at the airline, and that so much of the rest of the management wasn’t actually interested in improving things. Some of you may recall that Malaysia brought a 747 back into service, which apparently was a “last straw” for him, as that entire decision was made without consulting him.

The 747 Malaysia brought back into service

So if there were any questions as to what the “personal reasons” involved were, I think it’s now sufficiently clear. Per, Christoph Mueller will be moving to Emirates once he leaves Malaysia Airlines, where he’ll be the chief transformation officer, largely responsible for technology at the airline.

As I said above, Christoph Mueller is brilliant, and this is an amazing recruit for Emirates. They’re already a great airline, though there’s no one better at turning airlines profitable than Mueller, so I’m sure he’ll contribute towards some very positive changes, even without being CEO.

Emirates A380

Emirates’ president, Tim Clark, is 66, so I wouldn’t be surprised if 54 year old Christoph Mueller will eventually replace him. He’d be a good fit.

While at Malaysia Airlines, Christoph Mueller strengthened the airline’s partnership with Emirates, so I guess he has already indirectly worked with them in a significant way.

I’m excited to see what he does at Emirates.

What do you make of Christoph Mueller working for Emirates?

  1. Let me explain to you why Malaysia is the shit country that it is.. it practises racial politics, racial political groups, everything is about race.. so a foreigner will not be able to lead this airline in peace.. the country is a dump…. that country is a hairs breadth away from all out racial riots….

  2. Not surprising. I was reading recently the commotion he caused due to his statement that he saw a lot of workers sleeping during his walk arounds and after that, I believe the former CEO and the Union leader requested for all foreigners to be removed from the board because they do not understand the culture of the country. If it’s true that they went behind him for whatever reason to bring back the 747 (which looks to be sitting idle since coming back up), than I am sure that he would have had more challenges besides that to have quit in such a short time. If all these are true, such a sad moment, despite all the promises from Khazanah to not interfere when he took the helm.
    Good luck to the company returning to black figures and back to it’s glory days.

  3. @mike yup the culture of the country especially is to sit around and be lazy… go look at Philly airport they have the american version there.. will never fly to that airport again……

  4. That means two things. #1 Personal reasons to leave was an excuse. #2 Lot of cost cutting at EK.

  5. What I would like to see is Emirates putting locals first when it comes to recruitment to high posts. if they are proud of their name and flag, they should be proud of their local home market and its talent.

  6. not a demotion.

    imagine.. CEO of your corner convenience store, or head of something at Harrolds.

  7. If he couldn’t morally tolerate the “corruption” in Malaysia, I have to wonder how he will adjust to working in the Arab Emirates.

  8. It must have been hell for him working there. I know Malaysia well as I vist at least 2x a month for business. As others said, racist and corrupt, even more so in government related companies. I am still MH Gold but have stopped flying them since last year, it is soooo bad. I guess they are better off closing the airline. Garuda, SQ and Air Asia surely can handle it.

  9. Firstly, close practically all the stations abroad, then strike up a code sharing deal with Emirates and then go work with them. How convenient.

    Leaving for personsl reasons? Of course! Malaysia Airlines just got screwed yet again. 🙂

  10. @AhmadZaki Mueller got screwed, not MH. He turned AerLingus to profitability through similar measures. The airline is losing a huge asset with his resignation. If you remember, MH actually made a profit in February, no thanks to the processes Mueller initiated. The corporate culture of MH needs to change for the airline to actually get back on track to profitability, and as of now, that’s just not happening.

    A fellow Malaysian.

  11. I believe he was doing wonderful job at MH in the right manner and that showed result of Feb profit with company turning black. I think he was not given independant handling with trust which caused him to rethink and settle with EK. Am sure if he practices similar practices of MH, the new company EK will turn more profitably versus huge investment they making in aircrsft orders, upgradation of products, airport infrastructure and man power worldwide. Let me comment that they have more manpower than actuaally required and also their wages and perks are far better compared to industry norms. which if handled deligently then you have all ++++. However they need to be future ready for technical side as old fashined strategies are now outdated replaced by more technical driven. I wish all the best and good success Christoph. GOD bless you. Rgds.

  12. @natr This is just what you think. Which I think you are wrong. MH lost so many routes and stations thanks to CM. so much for the restructuring

  13. Congratulations Mr Mueller, all the best, it’s MH lost not yours. Once MH was a great airline they hire monkeys who has no idea about airline. Recently on one of my trip to KUL part of the prelanding announcement was “in an event of an unexpected evacution, please evacuate to the nearest exit, do not take anything with you”. Wow! When I heard that I was expecting an accident may happened. We already lost 2 aircrafts, makes me think this is a warning that the pilots may not be experience.

  14. I had similar experience before in which I used my personal reasons to discontinue my employment contract and fully subscribed to Mueller’s decision. A good analogy given to my ex bosses was “Its like me married to a beautiful widow with grown-up kids where some of them or none of them not in sync with me. Whereas the widow expect miracles to happen within short of time where the previous work culture been embedded with them. I am unable to continue my marriage you, therefore separation is best for us” So, you can consider me as an Idiot Corporate Guy.

  15. Muller was a God sent to MAS ,that’s a fact.
    He’s done his best
    Thank you.
    For the record I’m a MAS employee

  16. Good thing he made Malaysia airlines stop major routes almost all over the world. And have emirates to code share with Malaysia airlines to “ease passengers travel”. Congratulations mr bueller. May god bless you. Corruption to in the sky.

  17. MAS was once the second best airline in the world, just next after SIA. It was headed by a Malaysian Malay. The airline started to become sick another Malay took over the management. So its not that a Malay cannot run the airline. It’s about which Malay the corrupt and which one was the bigger corrupt.

  18. The problems in Malaysia and MH are deep seated. They are one of the same. They are somewhat similar in historical terms too.

    The only difference is MH collapsed first. The blatant looting and plundering is unprecedented. The denial is almost unreal. Malaysians must have developed such a high level of tolerance for nonsense and probably beyond the capacity of Mueller’s.

    What a shame to see such an iconic establishment ripped apart.

  19. Yes, he is a wise man, to leave before he gets all the blame from the country. He realized he made the worst decision to join MH, glad for him to escape that shitty business early! As long as the government and politicians are involved, MH will always be around and remain a shitty business.

    An insider news for you:
    apparently some VIPs refused to terminate the London route, because their children are studying there. They use MH as their national transport for personal reasons. With situation like this, things will never improved.

    And thank you for writing this blog spot, I think the world should know about it!

  20. If you wonder where on earth would many $2 domestic companies with bumi status can be awarded big contracts from the public sector and state owned enterprises then look no further, Malaysia is one of them. To the western culture, it is in conflict to their blood and can’t be tolerated. However to them, it is like lunch or dinner.

  21. Ya ya change the culture by getting rid of 6000 staff, closing the stations, shuttingg down the workshops, deactivating the routes.

    Very creative and brilliant! I think an intern can come up with those action plan.

    The management corrupted and not interested to change?? we were told all the heads were replaced by foreigners and should be the CEO’s hand picked ‘A’ team. Are they corrupted and not interested as well?

    I guess looking at the article, the writer, ‘Lucky’ might be offered a job by Muller soon to help him take Emirates to the stratosphere.

  22. @rom: so what?? Racism and corruptions are everywhere!! I do believe they are exist in your country too!!

  23. @frequent traveler: wow the way u r saying is like ur race is so clean, kind and holy! Here in Malaysia there are many NON-bumi companies that involved in corruption and received project tenders from the govt too such as YTL, Genting and Berjaya. Even the chinese politicians from opposition party involved in house and sea tunnel scandals. So please remove the “Holier Than Thou” attitude in yourself!

  24. Eventually, we ended in Malaysian way…. non stop finger pointing and quarrel among each other. From inter race till within own race, till within group, till within family members………….

  25. Details of the ‘real’ reasons why he resigned may not be evident as yet. But time will tell.

    Meanwhile some dirty laundry is already evident from some of the comments made.

  26. You cannot cut off the arms and legs of a dying person like closing down d maintenance division and selling off the airplane.
    It is obvious that the money of the sale of aircraft plus the salary of the 6k odd staffs that he laid off could be an instant profit for a short period of time. Thereafter the next person is needed to repair the damage tomorrow.

  27. @natr being succesfull at one company doesn’t neccessarily mean you will get the same success at others. If working life is as simple as that then we wouldn’t have the problem in the first place.

    The biggest problem for Malaysian government is they always rely on foreigners-as if they are more capable than locals. When I was a journalist, i met quite a few airlines bosses (Mostly working with National Carriers in Asia) and they all said the same thing-the management (what ever company) made a big mistakes when they started to bring in so called “great foreigners/Consultants” to manage local carriers in hoping to turn things around. It always end up the person resign after the “damage done” i.e huge lay off. Some of this bosses are working with a well known National Carriers in Asia. (Not MAS).

    It may be quite harsh. But I kind of agree with one of the comments above-you come in as a CEO-getting rid of 6,000 staffs to cut cost in the name of “efficiency” & shutting down routes-even an intern can think of that. Nothing brilliant about the decision. Heck, when Mueller was appointed, i even had a joke with my friends-how long he gonna stay 🙂 its so funny why Malaysia Government hired him in the first place. The scenario (him leaving in a short time) is so predictable

  28. His personal reasons are to do with his libido. And his wife found out. Health hath no fury etc etc.

    His top senior management team are all foreigners. Ask about one of them who is on leave pending investigation for leaking MAS info to another airline.

    An airline’s success is due to its connectivity, among other factors. CM effectively cut that out, including popular and full load sectors. He had a hidden agenda all the while, to ingratiate himself with Emirates at the expense of MAS.

    A slap in the face indeed to Khazanah and their head-hunting skills.

  29. Regina, YTL, Berjaya and Genting are multi billion companies. People are talking about 2 dollar companies getting project awards simply because they are connected to the ruling elite. Singapore has basically no resources but they are immensely successful because they do not have the corruption and institutional racism that plagues Malaysia.

  30. “Ya ya change the culture by getting rid of 6000 staff, closing the stations, shuttingg down the workshops, deactivating the routes.

    Very creative and brilliant! I think an intern can come up with those action plan.”

    So an intern can come up with that, but the previous management at MAS, along with their interns, could not?

    Some of the comments here are what one would expect to see on a Yahoo board…

  31. Remember those day before Malaysia reached independence, Japanese invade our country for ‘good’ while in fact they are gold digging in our country for natural resources.

    The idea here is aviation works in one principle, the “PERCEPTION”. All of these comments above are basically your perception towards Malaysia Airline based on the actions made. So, let us not dragging more possible causes that you think make Mueller resigned from his position in MH and apply cold water to the burned area shall we?

    It is right, Malaysia Airline shouldn’t hire Mueller in the first place. It is such an imbecile decision to be made in a crisis.

  32. Christoph Mueller was already in Dubai, where he was very close to the people inside EK. At that time I already told my wife, who exited MAS today because of the restructuring, that he was snuggling up to EK.
    When the announcement came that he was leaving the company, I told everybody that it was just a matter of time before he announces his involvement with EK. MAS was flying to DXB for roughly $500 round-trip but couldn’t get a full plane. EK did it for $400. After CM signed the code share contract and pulled MAS out of DXB, prices at EK went up to $800. And EK is flying 4x a day( even a A380) thanks to UAE government subsidies. The plan is to stop MAS flying to every station because EK will take over. CM “sold” the company to EK and is now sleeping in EK’s bed. At the cost of 6000 people!

  33. Putting locals in charge at EK !!!!!? hahahaha

    Thats why they are hiring this man, the “locals” ignored the “white managers” and played around with the hiring of pilots, and now they are stuck between massive crew shortages, staff leaving in droves because of the “local” rostering protocols, and the idiot savants claimed to be managers!

    This man will probably be used to draft new hiring practices, contracts and maybe just maybe, bases outside of Dubai to help with recruitment! As it stands, they need to interview over 3000 people a year just to break even with the amount of pilots leaving! lol. Talk about ignoring pilot conditions until its too late!

    I’ll go work for them, if they start having bases outside Dubai or reverse rostering!

  34. CM may be one of the best in the industry. BUT, the main factors (mentioned above) for MH coming to profit by cutting down on employs or by grounding B777 fleet or by reducing the sectors…. doesn’t look so convincing to me. Almost all the airlines of the world are making profit these days, thanks to the low fuel prices. There’s no point reducing the staff of lower grade (I’m sure out of 6000 job cuts, most would be low grade and not the managers who take the major chunk and get max airline benefits). The B777 aircraft is one of the best in the industry (look at EK or SIL or BA). More sectors should be flown looking at the seat factor. There are many other ways of cost cutting for an airline like providing better services, on time performance, inflight entertainment, competitive ticket prices to attract more customers. Cost cutting can be by reducing on sponsorships and by giving NO free bees to the politicians. Aircrafts should be used maximum, reduction on ground time.
    I’m sure, if CM is the best, he must have looked into all these factors as well.

  35. Christoph Mueller , toke the job at MAS for the salary package , and coming to Emirates for the same reason , Emirates will soon face or possible already over staffed , EK stop hiring now , and soon they will reduce staff !!! , Chirs is there for CLEARING job , and possible CEO after Tim Clark,

  36. The Malay gov hired a foreigner to fire 6000 locals. He did his job and moved on.

    MH was a failure BEFORE the 2 accidents.

    Now the Malaysian press, government and people can blame a foreigner for decades of their own corrupt mistakes.

  37. Any fool can cut services, cut staff and cut quality, hoping that the cuts will be invisible to the traveling public.
    Mueller is just that —– he cuts and doesn’t understand how to build.
    Tim Clark has led Emirates from nowhere to be the world’s high quality, most prestigious air carrier, and all that Mueller can do is to cut and cut. Tim Clark has buried other carriers by imposing huge capacity into key markets, USA carriers especially, helped by Emirates having no income tax burden that requires staff overpayment just to cover taxes, and unlimited financing for aircraft by the government. He’s done well. But Mueller doesn’t have that vision since all that he knows is cut – cut – cut. He’s the kind of guy who will take the olive out of the Martini, or reduce the available movies in the entertainment system, or buy cheaper toilet paper.
    There are not many CEOs that are worse than Mueller. I totally disagree with the author of this article.

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