Following the two disasters in the space of six months with the loss of 537 lives, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) have been advised by aviation analysts and all and sundry to undertake a rebranding exercise to overhaul its reputation. The drastic rebranding may include the change of name for the company.
I have, in effect, suggested that the airlines rename itself after the mysterious disappearance of its jetliner MH370 last March. It is yet to be found despite massive search mounted by the international community. My rationale is the disaster should not have caused a bad image to the country and its people through the use of the country’s name.
During the Cadbury’s alleged problem with porcine DNA, there were comments made in foreign online news portals about not trusting a country to find the elusive DNA in the chocolate because it could not even find its lost jetliner! Such a degrading remark.
Now with the shooting down of MH17 on 17 July 2014, an unpleasant sense of foreboding struck the would be passengers who have the tendency to be superstitious. Malaysia Airlines? Oh no, book me on another airline please!
And the story is now going around he world, I heard it from a doctor from Australia that Malaysia airlines was specially targeted that day in East Ukraine because of the country’s support of terrorism in the Middle East and Chechnya? Apparently there were airlines like Singapore Airlines and Indian Airlines traversing the same route over the conflict zone close to the Malaysia Airlines and yet the latter was the one hit. I find it hard to believe this conspiracy theory. To me it was more of a random event. Malaysia Airlines MH17 was just at the wrong time and in the wrong place.
Anyway, conspiracy theory aside, Malaysia Airlines is suffering from a negative image internationally. It has been fraught with financial losses over the last decade since the introduction of budget airlines like AirAsia and the disasters so close to each other have brought it to its knees but for the government’s ownership of the airlines.
The problems faced by MAS are not only financial and management in nature but worse still it’s its reputation of being jinxed in the eye of the air-travelling public. And a change in name of the airlines and the colour scheme of its design even the uniform of its cabin staff would help to bury the negative image of disaster. I suspect there would be opposition to this radical rebranding especially from MAS’s employee Union, supposedly quite influential.
The reality on the ground is what the people who oppose the rebranding fail to appreciate. Another reason is the fact that the airlines is owned by the government of Malaysia and so people have decided that it cannot fail as big brother (taxpayers) is always there to bail it out. The attitude is anathema to commercial success in the milieu of stiff competition. It should be operated as a business and not as a government service to enable it to rise to the occasion, unlike now.
I have had a long association with MAS, from travelling extensively with it to being a minority shareholder of its current worthless stock and have gone from being sad to being sceptical and cynical. I would nevertheless go along with the rebranding and pray to the power up there that the airlines would emulate the phoenix rising from the ashes.