A month back I was planning a trip to Phuket with my family, and my ticket search immediately produced Malaysia Airlines as a top contender in terms of travel time and pricing. Nonetheless, neither my father nor I wanted to travel with Malaysian —after a series of fatal incidents in the last year had raised much doubt about the reliability of the airline.
In March 2014, MH 370 disappeared after taking off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Later in the year In July, flight MH 317 was shot down by rebels in Ukraine. In December of 2014 Air Asia flight QZ 8501 en route from Indonesia to Singapore went down killing everyone on board.The fact that it is another Malaysia based airline, obviously left many perturbed. As recently as a few days back, a Malaysian Airlines plane made an emergency landing in Melbourne. Is all this a spate of bad luck or a systematic problem?
If I as a consumer was jittery on flying Malaysian, perhaps there were also others like me that would rather pay a price premium and take their business elsewhere. It is widespread knowledge that Malaysian has taken a hit and is incurring losses after these incidents. Coming to this from being in the Top 10 of the world best Airline in 2012 as awarded by Skytrax. How the mighty have fallen, literally and figuratively.
It is thus no surprise that Malaysian has now routed itself for a rehaul —a formation of a new company—a complete restructuring which would involved the genesis of a company that will be fully operational by September. Details of this operation are few and far between, but it may be wise for Malaysian to lose its name and its now infamous, once famous logo.
Some may argue that the process may completely destroy the brand equity of Malaysian Airlines, but one must focus on the consumer perception of the brand equity that remains at the moment, which is shaky at best.
It will be interesting to see in the coming months, to what extent the rebranding is carried out, of course it will remain common knowledge that a new fancy logo and name has come to replace Malaysian Airlines traditional name and symbology, but would it be enough to break the superstition or fear that has come to haunt some fliers?
I think the answer lies in two key areas of thought. Firstly trying to assess why it is some people would prefer to pay more and travel on other airlines rather than Malaysian. Is it superstitious fear or a rational thought process? After all an airline incurring losses may decide to cut corners on upkeep and service and that can be a major deterrent for many fliers. The fact that Malaysian Airlines has not been doing too well, is of course case for concern, and apparently reason enough for some to not chose this once coveted carrier.
Secondly; Malaysian Airlines rebranding effort could be a symbolic activity indicating that it is trying to turn itself around, increase efficiency, and that could potentially appeal to many. Moreover, a new design and name could help work its way around the fear association or conditioning that may have made its way into the mind of some consumers.
Overall, rebranding may be a good decision, even if does tarnish the brand equity. An overhaul of operations, focus on training and service, and swanky new logo could perhaps be the way to go to restore the lost faith of it’s customers.
Nervous fliers like myself will undoubtedly be aghast at the idea of flying Malaysian, where some price sensitive consumers may be tempted to pick up a sweet deal, below the market price. A quick survey on my Facebook page with 35 respondents answering either yes or no to the question “Would you fly Malaysian Airlines if it gives you a “marginally” better deal than other airlines?” showed that 37.1% people would be OK to travel in Malaysian given a better deal, where as 51% would not want to fly Malaysian even given a better deal. Now, what would happen if the price points are the same, as say Thai or Singapore Airways? Would we still have 37% of consumers wanting to fly Malaysian over an airline which has a better safety record?—I am not so sure about that.
Thanks to all my Facebook friends for responding!