MH370 and MH17. Two flight names that have been at the heart of two disasterous events and have scarcely been out the news over the past few months. The disaster of flight MH370 put Malaysia Airlines squarely in the global spotlight, and the events of the MH17 flight over Ukraine kept it there.
Much has been said about the impact these two events have had on Malaysia Airlines- their share price has collapsed and they have suffered a significant drop in ticket sales. Although the loss of MH17 was not due to a mechanical fault but rather terrorism, the suspicion is that many business and leisure passengers will ultimately fear boarding a Malaysia Airlines flight in the future, and avoid flying with the airline completely. Regardless of the logic behind this behaviour, how does the Malaysia Airlines brand recover when consumers now have such a strongly negative association with it?
To me, they have two options: either Malaysia Airlines scraps the brand totally and reinvents itself, or they keep the brand and seek to rebuild trust and credibility in their carrier. Neither option will be easy or come cheap. Although it may initially seem simpler to reinvent an entirely new brand, the Malaysia Airlines brand is so historical, well-established and (regrettably) far too famous given recent events for it to viably disappear quietly into the ether and return under the guise of a new brand.
So it looks like they need to engage in an intensive rebuilding campaign centred around trust, safety and reassurance. It will take time and money- neither of which are in good supply if Malaysia Airlines’ financial reports are to be believed. Cost-cutting measures to fill planes is a short-term solution, but ultimately it may still prove ineffective if passengers feel they are sacrificing their safety in exchange for cheaper flights. The battle will ultimately be won through long-term brand building. Let’s hope that Malaysia Airlines will be afforded the time to convince passengers to fly with it again.