What do you do when your airline loses two passenger planes in a period of four months, resulting in the death or disappearance of more than five hundred people?
If you are Malaysia Airlines, you rebrand.
The bewildered airline faces this challengein the wake of two high profile airline disasters recently. The first tragedy, which occurred in March, resulted in the disappearance of 239 passengers and crew when Flight MH370 vanished, presumably over the Indian Ocean. Shortly after that event in July, as the company frantically tried to repair its image through a public relations blitz, a second senseless disaster crippled the company when Flight MH17 crashed over the conflict area of Ukraine, killing all 298 crew and passengers aboard.
As the fallout from these events continues, the company hinted at accelerating plans to rebrand the company, now including the possibility of changing the airline's name and completely overhauling its image. The company, which is owned mostly by the Malaysian government, has also expressed increased interest to bring on additional investors.
According to Hugh Dunleavey, Malaysia Airline's commercial director, "There are several options on the table but all involve creating an airline fit for purpose in what is a new era for us, and other airlines." He went on to say that the company continues to carry 50,000 passengers on 360 flights per day and remains one of only seven five-star rated airlines in the world.
Investigators struggle to determine the cause of these two events, which in both cases remains unknown. Regardless of the outcome, many hypothesize that the airline's days may be numbers so long as passengers consider flying on Malaysia Airlines too much of a risk.
There is precedence to this strategy. Embroiled in a controversy over an airline crash in 1995 that killed 110 people, ValuJet merged with a much smaller competitor, AirTran, assuming the smaller airline's name and even moving its headquarters. Many believe that the quick move to change the name helped save the airline.
Clearly, Malaysia Airlines is a much bigger company with much more at stake. Whether this strategy will help the airline overcome public opinion and the presumed risk resulting from these eventsis still unclear.
Do you think Malaysia Airlines can recover from these disasters? Isrebranding the company the right strategy? Please share your thoughts below.