Former Malaysia Air chief Cristoph Mueller to join Emirates
Christoph Mueller, previously the chief executive at Malaysia Airlines, joins Emirates this month in a newly created position in which he will play a significant management role at the biggest airline by international traffic.
The German, who also ran Ireland’s Aer Lingus and the former Belgian flag carrier Sabena, starts on September 20 as the chief digital and innovation officer, Emirates said.
Emirates has expanded to become the world’s biggest long-haul airline after exploiting Dubai’s position at a crossroads between Europe and the Americas and Asia, the Middle East and Africa to siphon off lucrative transfer traffic. At the same time, annual sales fell for the first time in a decade in the year through March as the oil-price decline depresses local demand and the carrier struggles to find worthwhile new intercontinental routes.
The carrier’s president Tim Clark, 66, has also met resistance to the expansion of Emirates in Europe and the United States, where rival carriers say the company has benefited from unfair state funding, while failing to persuade Airbus to help renew the industry’s biggest wide-body jet fleet by upgrading its A380 superjumbo model.
Mr Mueller, who turns 55 in December, was hired by Malaysia Air in March last year after its reputation and sales were hit by two aircraft losses the previous year – one involving a plane that disappeared over the Indian Ocean, the other a missile strike on a jet flying above a Ukrainian war zone. His strategy halted losses by recasting Kuala Lumpur as a hub for Asian rather than global travel, while cutting 6,000 jobs and shrinking capacity by almost one-third.
Despite his successes, Mr Mueller announced in April that he was leaving Malaysia Air, citing unspecified personal reasons beyond his control. He agreed to serve a six-month notice period that was due to end this month, though he stood down earlier after the carrier announced the chief operating officer Peter Bellew as his successor at the end of June.
At Aer Lingus, Mr Mueller streamlined short-haul operations, resolved pension disputes and transformed the carrier’s Dublin base into a trans-Atlantic hub. That strategy prompted Willie Walsh, the chief executive of the British Airways owner IAG, to make a successful takeover bid.
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Published: September 7, 2016 04:00 AM