To solve Malaysia Airline’s branding problem, rebranding is necessary for them for their potential customer to put Malaysia Airline as priority choice when comparing among the airlines. According to Jonathan A.J Wilson (2014), brands are a visual, aural and verbal encapsulation of differentiating characteristics for people to a particular product or services (Lessons from Malaysia Airlines: Damage Control and Should They Rebrand, para.4). Comparing same type of products and services, branding always influences people to put the brands as their top choices. He also stated that cooperate brands have their identity and personality, linking all the employees, activities, products and services to the organisation (Lessons from Malaysia Airlines: Damage Control and Should They Rebrand, para.4). Although Malaysia Airline gives us the pride as it is our national brand, people avoid choosing it as their top choice for their safety measure when flying because the branding is associates with air disasters. Rebranding would be a solution for Malaysia Airline current situation because rebranding which involves repainting its uniforms and relaunching it with new logos and name is a strategic action for the airlines after a clash (Karl West, 2014, para.1). According to Johnny Clark, an aviation brand consultant and director of The DesignAir , their recognisable logos and cooperate colours were on the headlines of TV news channels and newspaper front pages during the air crashes, causing deep impact in the people memory about the passenger jet disasters. Clark also pointed out MAS need to consolidate the current look of their aircraft if their aircraft and the smart course of action would be to expedite the painting of their entire fleet to the newer scheme( Annette Ekin, personal communication, July 2014).
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By rebranding the Malaysia Airlines, people will lower their worries and security guard towards the branding because it is wholly new for them and the new branding would prevent evoking of the memories of the scene of plane crash. A name change would tell the entire world that Malaysia Airlines have changed and they are ready for a new chapter in order to regain their customers. Comparing the air disasters happened in the past, the aviation tragedy in MH17 similar with the shooting down of Korean Air Lines flight KAL 007, a commercial carrier which sheered into Russian airspace. To solve their branding crisis, the airline chose to remould into its new image, Korean Air. The affiliation of its previous branding which is a tail-fin logo, a red crane enclosed in red circle with tragedy and doomed flight is replaced with a stylized red and blue taeguk, the Korean yin-yang. With its fresh look, Korean Air now a top ranked airline for service and safety and able to survive through the branding crisis ( Karl West, 2014, para.9) .
Other than rebranding Malaysia Airlines, they need to restructure their business by making major internal changes in the company. Apparently, the first things they need to improve is development of a flexible crisis response capability. Paul Baines (2014) has stated the capability of a company in handling challenges and crisis is a measure of the company to survive in the business world. (What Malaysia Airlines must do to survive, para.5)
According to Paul (2014), it is crucial for Malaysia Airline to form a crisis response team in order to response to the emotional needs of its public and also conduct a post mortem the changes they would practice for handling crises better in future. (What Malaysia Airlines must do to survive, para.5) It is very important for it to refill its plane with global passengers, especially the Chinese and the Dutch which are the biggest community involved in the twin air disasters. The crisis communication strategy should account for the media and general public particularly the families and internal staff. A crisis communication team would be responsible for when, what and how the informations will be conveyed to each audience (Ben McCarthy, 2014,pg.1). Reviewing the case of MH370, the biggest fault by Malaysia Airline is the slow reaction towards the crisis. Robert Jensan who is the chief executive of Kenyon, a crisis and disasters management company said that the first thing Malaysia Airlines should have done is inform the airport to take a few actions without any delays. The arrival board of the flight should be taken off immediately, setting up a reception area for the family members. Before the news broke, the family members is required to stay in a protected area, securing them from the media onslaught. The priority in the chaos should be the family members of the passengers. Furthermore, Robert pointed out that Malaysia Airline should brief them before the media and be transparent in giving the information in their hand and caution them about the speculation that will inevitably arise and tell them what to expect in the coming days (Amber Hildebrandit, personal communication, March 12, 2014).
By having good crisis management team in order for facing challenges in the future, Malaysia Airline is more ready to be exist as a competitive airliner. Good crisis management system would regain its customers because their right have been reserved. Concerning about their customers’ right and needs, the Malaysia Airline would be remoulded as a responsible airline company which put their customers need as their top consideration. By doing this, they would solve their branding problem and financial problem in the future.
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Although regaining potential customers to refill its plane would help Malaysia Airline to aid in its financial problem, cutting cost and restructuring the business model are necessary. Since high operating cost is one of the factor, weakness in pricing and revenue management, sales and distribution in the market can be overcome by personnel transfer. Cut job can directly ease the financial burden and the remaining staffs will provided training again so that they remain as highly skilled and competitive employee to help in decision making in the planning for business strategy for Malaysia Airline. In addition, replacing the aircraft with the higher efficiency and fuel saving is inevitable for facing the current escalating fuel. It is to ensure the yield per route would be profitable to cover the high operating cost. To do so, restructuring the route also needed so that unprofitable route would be taken out and avoid financial lost. Although cutting cost and restructuring business model are effective ways to solve their financial crisis, it would takes long time to practice the solution. Despite the time taken, downsizing and restructuring the route affect the personnel lives. Downsizing would cause the employees to lose their jobs and source of revenue while restructuring the route may neglect the need of minority group who needs the flying service. For this reason, Malaysia Airline needs to handle it well by holding several communications and negotiation with the employee and the public so that it will not bring damage to its branding anymore.
The twin aviation disasters in four months have brought severe damage to the reputation and financial status of the Malaysia Airline. To survive in this crisis, it is a biggest challenge faced by the airline because the lack of experience handling in such problem in the past. Malaysia Airline should solve both the problems together as its’ interrelated. Rebranding and restructuring of the airline would be a new chapter for the relationship between the airline and customers. Lessons learned by the airline would help them to handle crisis better in the future, securing the national brand of the airline as well as the right of the passengers.
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