The man dubbed ‘the Terminator’ and charged with restructuring Malaysia Airlines following its annus horribilis in 2014 will headline World Travel Market London 2015’s Aviation Programme.
German-born Christoph Mueller became chief executive in May 2015, tasked with overhauling the Malaysian flag carrier following years of financial losses and the two disasters of 2014.
In March 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared with 239 passengers and crew aboard. Four months later, flight MH17 was shot down while in Ukrainian airspace, with the loss of 298 passengers and crew.
Mueller -who has also held senior roles at Aer Lingus, Belgium’s Sabena and Germany’s Lufthansa – is nicknamed ‘The Terminator’, thanks to his reputation for cutting jobs.
He is axing about 6,000 jobs – reducing the Malaysia Airlines workforce to 14,000 – and is expected to cut unprofitable long-haul routes in the face of stiff competition.
At WTM London 2015, he will talk about how he is dealing with an even greater challenge, at an airline he described as “technically bankrupt”. Malaysia Airlines as of today (Tuesday 1 September) have also reformed as a new carrier, Malaysia Airlines Berhad.
Mueller had recruited key new executives to help the turnaround, including Paul Simmons as chief commercial officer and Peter Bellew as chief operations officer.
Simmons has experience with two UK airlines – Flybe and easyJet – while Bellew will join from Ryanair where he has served in roles with increasing responsibility since 2006.
Mueller will be interviewed by WTM aviation expert, John Strickland, Director of JLS Consulting.
Strickland has held senior positions in several airlines during his more than 30 year career in the sector including British Caledonian, British Airways, KLM and Buzz.
Strickland said: “Mueller must have one of the toughest assignments in corporate history.
“Aside from the twin tragedies of 2014, Malaysian had been losing money and struggled with inefficiency, intense competition and political challenges.
“The airline made a bold move to appoint a non-Malaysian as CEO, but Mueller is a seasoned industry executive with a successful track record, so it will be fascinating to hear how he is taking on this challenge and how his previous experience may help.”
WTM London, Senior Director, Simon Press, said: “Christoph’s unrivalled experience in aviation and the wider travel industry means this session will offer delegates great insights.
“He is a highly respected executive on the global stage, and this will be one of the must-attend events during WTM 2015.”
The keynote interview will take place from 2pm-3pm on Wednesday 4th November, in Platinum Suite 1 at WTM 2015.
The Aviation Programme also features an Airline Industry Panel, which will be on Tuesday 3rd November from 10.30am-11.30am, also in Platinum Suite 1.
This will feature Strickland as moderator, discussing new research into global passenger trends and experience by aviation research and publishing specialist Ink, along with expert panelists from across the industry.