Malaysia Airlines Hopes To Be #FlyingHigh After Rebranding

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After the loss of two aircraft, Malaysia Airlines is planning to rebrand. Support has come from around the world thanks to viral social media campaigns.

Malaysia Airlines has faced enormous challenges since losing two Boeing 777’s earlier this year. First came the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March and is presumed to be at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. Then, while traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

The airline continues to transport 50,000 passengers and operate 360 flights daily, but since the tragedies, there has been a sharp drop in business, particularly from China. Malaysia Airlines is now pursuing a strategy to rebrand itself, hoping the tragedies will become mere footnotes in its history, according to the International Business Times. To achieve that goal, the airline’s Facebook and Twitter accounts are doing some of the work.

The company’s rebrand will likely involve a name change, new investors and restructuring of its 80 routes through increased outsourcing, according to The Telegraph. The Telegraph also reports that private investment in the airline may come from “rival aviation groups.”

There have been notable success stories with troubled airlines rebranding themselves. After a ValuJet Airlines DC-9 crashed in the Florida Everglades in 1996, the company reinvented itself as AirTran. By 2010, the new airline proved to be successful enough for Southwest Airlines to pursue and complete a merger.

Malaysia Airlines’ strategy is being spearheaded by the Malaysian government, which owns a majority share of the carrier and has offered to buyout other shareholders. The airline’s commercial director, Hugh Dunleavy, told The Telegraph that the carrier will “emerge stronger.” Dunleavy added that “outside investment could help to return confidence.”

The airline is also fiercely arguing for “one body to be the arbiter” of safe international flight paths. When a ground-to-air missile struck MH17, the aircraft was traveling at cruising altitude in a non-restricted, approved fly zone. Dunleavy brought heat to the topic in a letter published by The Telegraph last month.

“Airlines such as ours should be left to focus on the quality of our product in the air, not on the air corridor we fly in,” a section of the letter read.

Referring to another battleground – the realm of social media and the bottomless spring that feeds it – a spokeswoman for Malaysia Airlines touted the importance it plays as a multiplier effect in the carrier’s go-forward strategy. “Social media has been one of the crucial tools,” the spokeswoman told Adweek, adding that it was also a “source of comfort” for both staff and followers.

Prodigious messages have streamed in from around the world on Facebook and Twitter from those who say they’ll continue to fly the troubled carrier. Of course, there have also been plenty of negative comments.

After the MH17 disaster, the carrier launched a #staystrong campaign on Twitter as a receptacle for followers and sympathizers. The airline began by posting “Tough times do not last, tough people do.” The campaign went viral and the company has since circulated #flyinghigh, which is also attracting positive response.

It wasn’t all smooth air and tailwinds for the carrier before the double-hit of tragedy, though. Last year, Malaysia Airlines lost $405 million. Challenges the airline continues to face include low-cost carriers, especially AirAsia, and flush airlines out of the Persian Gulf. Year-to-date, Malaysia Airlines’ stock has lost nearly one-third of its value.

When the Malaysian government announced their plans to take full control of the airline last week they anticipated they would have a complete restructuring plan developed by the end of August. The government, according to a report published by The New York Times, aims to “restructure [Malaysia Airlines’] operations in an attempt to restore confidence in the flagging business.”

[Photo: iStock]

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