LATEST | For those wondering, Malaysia Airlines has seen an overnight and largely behind-the-scenes change of name but not yet of brand.
It's still 'Malaysia Airlines', but the company itself is now known as Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) rather than Malaysian Airline System Berhad (which most knew as MAS). The Malay word 'berhad' means 'private' and is used to indicate a private limited company.
PREVIOUS | Malaysia Airlines will be rebranded as of September 1 as part of a sweeping program to re-invent the troubled airline.
The new name is being kept under wraps for now, but according to newly-minted Malaysia Airlines CEO Christoph Mueller – the first non-Malaysian to head the beleaguered airline – it is "Malaysian at heart."
"The brand will be around a Malaysian-centric ideal" Mueller explains. "We will test it very diligently with test groups because we have to achieve the prediction of a new start in markets where our brand is tarnished."
"The travelling public needs to understand we are not just MAS in a new disguise but truly a start-up [although] of course we want to be as well-known as the old carrier."
Mueller is embarking on what he describes as "hard reset" for the airline, with the name just one factor in a sweeping and ambitious program.
However, he says the new MAS will continue to "serve all continents either directly of via alliances and partnerships."
Some routes to be cut
Mueller admits that the airline will "reduce frequency on some routes, in some cases cases abandoning the route altogether" if it can't be made profitable, even with fewer flights on smaller aircraft, with the network's new shape due to be revealed by the end of June.
But Australia looks safe from the scythe. "The Australian market is of such importance to us, and to Malaysia, that I do not expect major changes there."
The double-daily Airbus A380 service between Kuala Lumpur and London will remain.
"London is our flagship route" Mueller says. "We are very happy with the current operating pattern, the (morning and evening) schedule we are operating is the best you can imagine – and we have three classes and a lot of cargo capacity which we need on that route."
First class remains, new business class on the way
There is also no plan for the reinvented airline to drop first class – currently seen only on the A380s – in favour of the core of business and economy travel.
Mueller told Australian Business Traveller that the business class seats on MAS' Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 jets would be upgraded to an all-new design with "very large dimensions, and will be positioned above the industry standard for business class."
And while some of the airline's Golden Wing airport lounges around the world will be closed in favour of superior facilities operated by Oneworld partners, those which remain open – including its flagship lounges at Kuala Lumpur – will receive a much-needed upgrade as MAS works to woo premium travellers.
Two A380s for sale
Mueller also confirmed that the airline has put two of its six Airbus A380s up for sale or lease, citing them as being "surplus to requirements" but said he has yet to find a taker for the pre-loved superjumbos.
Malaysia Airlines took delivery of its first A380 just less than three years ago, in May 2012, and currently flies the double-decker jets from its home hub in Kuala Lumpur to London and Paris.
Malaysia Airlines has racked up debts approaching $1.5 billion since 2011, with a dire situation worsened by last year's twin tragedies of the disappearance of flight MH370 and the shooting down of MH17.
The airline was nationalised in late 2014 by Malaysia's government-owned investment arm Khazanah Nasional, which has pledged a A$2 billion injection to fund the dramatic restructure aimed at returning the airline to profitability by 2017.
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