Australia Malaysia Business Council - NSW Chapter

The travel industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, including our sponsor and member Malaysia Airlines.

In the midst of these unprecedented times, we interviewed Malaysia Airlines regional manager (Australia and New Zealand) Giles Gilbert about the national carrier’s future and where to find the best chicken satay.

Who is Malaysia Airlines?

Malaysia Airlines is the national carrier of Malaysia.

Before COVID-19, we operated over 60 weekly services from Australia and New Zealand to its hub in Kuala Lumpur.

Beyond Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines connects 61 destinations in 23 countries with a modern fleet of Airbus A380-800, A330-200, A330-300, A350-900 and Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

The network includes extensive domestic and regional coverage across Malaysia and South East Asia. No other Malaysian carrier offers a comparable domestic, regional, or global network solution for travel to, from and within Malaysia for the premium traveller.

Malaysia Airlines understands the importance of a global footprint, being a member of the world’s premier global alliance – oneworld. For example, our oneworld partnership with Qantas provides us access across domestic and regional Australian routes. Qantas’ frequent flyers and premium travellers earn status credits and points for travel on MH-operated services while continuing to enjoy the industry leading lounge facilities of Qantas across Australia.

We have Business and Economy cabins, with extra leg room seats in a separate cabin, which gives the client the Premium economy feel, with Economy class Airfare level.

Most Australian and New Zealand services are serviced by Airbus A330-300s configured with 27 fully flat seats in Business Class and 261 slimline seats in Economy.

Where do you see Malaysia Airlines in the next five years?

We are working on a partnership strategy with other airlines wherever it makes commercial sense.

We have a deep oneworld based interline agreement with Qantas (Australia and New Zealand) and British Airways (United Kingdom and Europe) and are continually developing further cooperative agreements with oneworld airlines.

Primarily, we are looking for hub to hub opportunities. We recently gained government approval on a fully immunized joint venture with Japan Airlines between Malaysia and Japan.

For the gulf region we codeshare with Emirates to Dubai and beyond, Etihad to Abu Dhabi and beyond and Oman Air to Muscat.

Our key focus remains to continue driving revenue improvements through enhanced product and service offerings focusing on what our passengers value, while driving cost optimisation.

Our key focus markets are Corporate, premium leisure and passengers who are visiting friends and family or going back to their country of origin.

What are some of the challenges faced by businesses (particularly in your industry) operating across the Australian and Malaysian markets?

The biggest challenge now is COVID-19 and the border restrictions that have been forced upon the travelling public.

However even within those difficult times, Malaysia Airlines did not stop flying into Australia and New Zealand, showing our commitment to the region for passenger and Cargo flights.

Who is the most interesting person you have met during the course of your business and networking?

Sir Richard Branson.

In the airline industry he is both a maverick and a visionary. He dares to do things differently and always thinks customer first.

He once famously said that when he stops receiving complaints he will know something is wrong, as someone is hiding them from him. You only know how you are performing when you listen to your customers.

Favourite Malaysian cuisine?

Chicken Satay – and the best is of course onboard Malaysia Airlines Business Class, or you can now purchase in advance in Economy on some flights.

What is one key lesson you have learned about running a business?

To remain relevant to your customer you must constantly think from your existing customers’ viewpoint, and from your potential future customers’ viewpoint.

If you stop doing this, you lose sight of why customers chose your product versus your competitor and can quickly lose relevance in the market.

We live in a customer service industry and we should never lose sight of what the customer wants, expects or demands.

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