Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAS) unveiled its plan to break even by the end of the year and turn in a profit by 2018, as it looks to re-brand itself following the mystery over the still missing flight MH370.
MAS Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Peter Bellew, revealed the mindset shift and sustainability focus in an interview with a local newspaper.
Speaking to New Straits Times Business , he said: "Now, there is a belief among the staff that it's going to be successful; that we will make it. We will achieve the goals that we have set to turn the airline around in the next couple of years," he said.
His interview was published on the same day (Tuesday 17 January) that Malaysia, Australia and China announced the underwater search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was being suspended after three years of futile search.
The decision to end the recovery effort has angered relatives of the victims on board the plane, with many pleading for the operations to resume.
Bellew, 51, who was previously chief operating officer at the airline, said that the company would be relisted some time in the first quarter of 2019.
The Irishman took over the leadership role after Christoph Mueller, an airline turnaround specialist brought in by the airlines' main shareholder Khazanah Nasional Berhad, left.
Bellew believes the MAS brand remains strong after working hard to re-engage with passengers, travel agents and the public.
"We are now up at the 80% load factor. You don't get back up into the 80% load factor if people don't love your brand. Obviously, there was nothing wrong with the brand. We just didn't tell anybody that we existed," he added.
The airline kept a low marketing profile after hitting world headlines twice in quick succession following two back-to back aviation disasters in 2014.
The unexplained disappearance of MH370 and its 239 passengers in March 2014 was soon followed by the airline's MH17 flight being shot down while flying over Ukraine, claiming the lives of all 298 on board.
Malaysia Airlines was forced to embark on a major restructuring programme which included a massive cut in headcount as well as a corporate reorganisation.
The airline is set to receive two new A350s by the end of October and four more in 2018. It will take delivery of the Boeing B737 MAX end 2019.
In addition to offering luxury as a new travel experience, the airline will maintain its value-added fares on 15 to 20% of its economy class seats to attract adventurous travellers like surfers, hikers, mountaineers and cyclists.
Bellew said an in-house research carried out over the past six months showed that a high number of adventure leisure travellers fly on MAS to Malaysia and other Asean countries.
MAS is also embarking on its biggest promotional campaign in London to woo the adventurous European travellers as well as business passengers to Malaysia this year.
The airline also plans to refurbish its Golden Lounges at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Kuching International AIrport, and London's Heathrow Airport in 2017.