DUBLIN • Malaysia Airlines chief executive Peter Bellew is leaving after just over a year in charge to return to Ryanair as chief operations officer, to tackle the pilot shortage that has resulted in it cancelling more than 20,000 flights over the winter season.
The move means that the national carrier will have to appoint a third chief executive officer in three years as it continues to recover from two tragedies in 2014, when Flight MH370 disappeared in what remains a mystery and Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.
Malaysia Airlines said in a statement the move was unexpected but that its turnaround remained "on track and on schedule".
For Ryanair, Mr Bellew's return on Dec 1 comes as Europe's busiest airline is trying to recruit additional pilots and persuade existing ones to stay with the offer of new, improved conditions to avoid a repeat of the cancellations.
Mr Bellew was director of flight operations at Ryanair before he left in 2014.
He joined Malaysia Airlines as chief operations officer in September 2015 and took over as chief executive officer in July last year.
Ryanair said that Mr Bellew would be given a specific responsibility for managing pilots.
Number of flights cancelled by Ryanair over the winter season because of the shortage of pilots.
His mission would be "to ensure that the pilot rostering failure which Ryanair suffered in early September will never be repeated".
Ryanair in all had announced the cancellation of around 20,000 flights after admitting it did not have enough standby pilots to operate a reliable schedule.
Irish stockbroker Goodbody said in a note last week that Mr Bellew was well regarded in the industry and was "thought to have had a good relationship with the pilots when he was there".
Mr Bellew's decision to leave Malaysia Airlines comes just over a year after former chief executive officer Christoph Mueller left the airline citing personal circumstances, a year after being hired on a three-year mission to revive the state-controlled firm.
Mr Mueller later joined Emirates as its chief digital and transformation officer.
In its statement, Malaysia Airlines said that Mr Bellew had said publicly on Sept 27 that he was committed to the airline and that its turnaround would be "the greatest achievement of his life".