The CEO of Malaysia Airlines is stepping down in the midst of efforts to turn around the carrier that suffered the devastating loss of two passenger jets in 2014. Christoph Mueller is resigning “due to a change in his personal circumstances,” the airline’s owner said Tuesday without providing further details. He took up the job in May 2015 on a three-year contract, but he will leave in September after less than half that time.
Mueller has been leading an ambitious restructuring of Malaysia’s loss-making flag carrier that has included cutting unprofitable routes, slashing thousands of jobs and bringing in new managers. Malaysia Airlines was already struggling with ballooning costs and stiff competition from rivals like AirAsia before disaster struck twice in 2014 with the mysterious disappearance of flight MH370 and the shooting down of flight MH17.
The airline was pulled from the stock market and taken private by Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah Nasional. Mueller, previously credited with turning around Irish carrier Aer Lingus, was hired to spearhead the recovery plan. As recently as February, he said Malaysia Airlines was on track to meet its goal of returning to profitability by 2018 but acknowledged that more reforms were needed.
“We have to change in some cases very, very radically the way we do our business, the way we work but also the way we work with each other,” he said in a television interview.