Outgoing Malaysia Airlines chief says returning to Ryanair out of love for Ireland

Mr Peter Bellow is rejoining Ryanair as its chief operations officer. He joined Malaysia Airlines just over a year ago in July 2016. PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - The outgoing chief executive officer of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), Peter Bellow, said he is leaving the carrier and returning to Ryanair out of love for his country Ireland and its "greatest company".

"They need my help and there is a big challenge. It is a form of national service," he wrote in a long response posted on The Star online site on Wednesday.

"So why am I leaving. Negaraku (My country). Love for country is pulling me back to Ireland".

His response came amid speculation of a rift with sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional, the sole shareholder of MAS.

Mr Bellew was the third chief executive of MAS since 2014, when the company was plunged into crisis by the disappearance of flight MH370 and the downing of MH17 over Ukraine.

MAS indicated on Tuesday that it was blindsided by Mr Bellew's resignation as he had told the media just three weeks ago that he would be staying with the Malaysian national carrier despite rumours he would rejoin Ryanair.

He is rejoining the Irish airline as its chief operations officer.

Mr Bellew responded to media reports about the so-called meddling by Khazanah.

"There have been news reports about Khazanah. Let me be clear. Khazanah is a Malaysian investment company linked to the government. They have been incredibly supportive to me personally and corporately.

"I tried to be transparent on a daily basis, included them in most significant meetings and dragged their staff to work for us! It has worked well. There has been no interference," he wrote, as posted by The Star.

He added: "People always ask me how do I cope with government interference. There has been none for me. Zero interference".

New Straits Times (NST) newspaper wrote that it believed that Mr Bellew, like the MAS CEO Christoph Mueller before him, "could not agree on some of the decisions by Khazanah over the overall running of the national carrier".

As for his recent comments that he would be staying on at MAS, Mr Bellew wrote: "When I was asked on 27th Sept would I go to Ryanair I said no. But a week later the call came and in life we can really never say never. I am looking forward to being close again to my family and friends 14 hours away in Ireland."

He joined the Malaysian carrier just over a year ago in July 2016.

Mr Bellew said MAS is close to returning to the black.

"It is a tough job to fix it. Success is just within our grasp. Just another 4 per cent- 5 per cent in revenue monthly and it should move to profits.

"Not always easy to gain but in the second quarter revenue increased 7 per cent".

He added: "The product is improving visibly: new wide-body planes, new lounges, new loyalty programme, new website and better operations in Kuala Lumpur".

But he one complaint: "Still some work needed on the food! Lots done - lots more to do".

Meanwhile, NST said Wednesday that two candidates could replace Mr Bellew. They are MRT Corp CEO Shahril Mokhtar or Malaysia Airports' chief financial officer Omar Siddiq Amin Noer Rashid. Malaysia Airports operate the country's airports.

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