Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 takes off from Schiphol airport near Amsterdam
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 takes off from Schiphol airport near Amsterdam

Malaysia Airlines may seek fresh start with new name

MALAYSIA Airlines could change its name in a radical attempt to rebrand and rebuild itself following two disasters in the past four months that have left the business on the brink of collapse.

The airline, which is majority-owned by the Malaysian government, has started a strategic review, which could see the owners turn to investment from rival airlines to fund the plans to regain travellers' trust.

Since the disappearance of flight MH370 in March and the missile attack on MH17 over Ukraine shares have been down 35 per cent so far this year as investors fear for the firm's future.

To improve its image the flag carrier's commercial director, Hugh Dunleavy, has also called for changes to international rules on where aircraft can fly, suggesting there must be a single global body to advise airlines on safe airspace.

"Our majority shareholder, the Malaysian government, has already started a process of assessing the future shape of our business and that process will now be speeded up as a result of MH17.

"There are several options on the table but all involve creating an airline fit for purpose in what is a new era for us, and other airlines," he told the Sunday Telegraph.

Sources have also suggested that additional private investment could come from rivals and would not be the first time flag-carrying airlines have ventured outside their own territories. British Airways and Iberia, Spain's flag-carrying airline, formed a joint venture in 2011.

However, any future investor will be keen to see how passengers react to making future bookings with Malaysia Airlines, and will want to know how many took up the airline's offer of a refund for any trip booked for later this year, with all fees waived.

The offer ended last Thursday but the airline has not revealed how many passengers took them up on it.

Around £1.8bn was raised in 2013 by Malaysia Airlines and industry analysts believe the company is well-funded, but many are hoping that an outside investment will help to return confidence to the organisation.

Others have suggested that the government could step in and privatise the business to take away its operations from the glare of the stock market. Its investment vehicle has a 69 per cent stake in the business and had been looking at a potential takeover before the MH17 crash which killed 298.

However, the airline had suffered three consecutive years of losses before the disappearance of flight MH370, due to fierce competition from rival low-cost airlines in its home markets.

Mr Dunleavy added: "With the unwavering support we have received from the Malaysian government, we are confident of our recovery, whatever the shape of the airline in future."

On the future of safety in the skies, he said: "We need one body to be the arbiter of where we can fly. Airlines such as ours should be left to focus on the quality of our product in the air, not on the air corridor we fly in, which should be guaranteed as safe passage."

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