Crew union slams Malaysia Airlines rebrand as "huge waste of money"

Nufam president Ismail Nasaruddin says airline should be focusing on better management rather than spending more cash

(Aero Icarus/Wikimedia Commons)

Despite not yet being unveiled, the proposed rebrand of Malaysia Airlines has already received severe criticism from a leading airline industry workers’ group.

The National Union of Flights Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) issued a statement yesterday strongly criticising the proposed facelift. It is reported to include a new name, logo and airline livery, and will be revealed next month. 

The move comes as the airline looks to repair its broken reputation after two tragic incidents involving carriers MH370, which went missing, and MH17, which exploded over conflict-ridden Ukraine, brought down by a Russian-made missile according to Dutch investigators.

The holding company has already been re-named Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB), from Malaysia Airlines System.

However, Nufam president Ismail Nasaruddin said the organisation opposed the planned rebrand.  

"[It] will be a huge waste of money and worse, will bury our national carrier's only surviving pride further. ‎Why should we bury and change the MAS logo and spend more millions again?" he said.

Nasaruddin pointed to two other airlines – Japan Airlines and Garuda Indonesia – that, despite having problems, kept their names and logos, and recovered.

"It's not about the logo or colour of the company that needs to change, its the mentality that needs real changing," he said.

Nufam has been at loggerheads with Malaysia Airlines since the two incidents last year, particularly over the restructuring that will cost 6,000 jobs according to CEO Christoph Mueller.

More retrenchments are expected in the coming months, said Nasaruddin.

"We are seeing a typical old MAS management at play. We hope Christoph Muller will understand the priorities of his staff first before other things. It's too quick that MAB wants to announce a new image, as MAS is still the pride of our nation."

Alex Ooi, managing director of Roots PR, told PRWeek Asia Malaysia Airlines should focus resources on rebuilding brand value through honest & consistent communication of their recovery efforts from the MH17 and MH370 tragedies.

"They need to show the world that this is a company that can stand the test of time and these stories need to be shared with everyone including the union guys every step of the way," he said. "It is a very emotional milestone in the airline's history and when one is faced with a perception issue, slapping new colours on it won't wipe past thoughts out of a person's mind.

"Imagine what MAS will have to say during the launch of their ‘new brand’ when the public's insatiable hunger for answers is still not satisfied."

Miek Gielkens, managing consultant at Lewis PR, said she agrees that rebranding is the wrong choice for MAB, especially now when there is much resentment and scrutiny over wasting of resources by the Malaysian government and linked companies.

"What MAB should be doing is showcasing the current brand's resolve and resilience against all that has happened and moving forward with integrity," she said.

"MAB has a lot of good history and a strong brand recollection which should be a good starting point. If they clean up ship, trim excess cost, resize the business and focus on the one thing they do really well, they should be all set for the years to come."

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