Customer experience key differentiator for Malaysia Airlines

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 15): Malaysia Airlines Bhd group chief executive officer (CEO) Captain Izham Ismail has achieved many feats in his almost 40 years in the aviation industry, capped in December last year when he became the first pilot to helm a major premium airline.

In 1997, he broke world aviation records when he flew Malaysia Airlines' first B777-200 from Seattle to Kuala Lumpur and back. It was the longest and fastest round-the-world flight by a commercial airliner, with a total flight time of 41 hours and 59 minutes over a distance of 23,310 miles.

Switching roles from the comfort of the cockpit to the hot seat of CEO, and prior to that as chief operating officer, Izham loses no time in coming to grips with the harsh realities of the highly challenging and competitive airline business.

Soon after taking over as CEO, he coined a new industry jargon called "customer experience" which when moving forward, shall be Malaysia Airlines' "centre of gravity".

In an interview with Bernama, he said the entire airline's organisation had been ramped up with the setting up of a task force on customer experience and two months ago, the effort was further boosted with the formation of a division fully focused on this.

"We don't fly planes only, Malaysia Airlines flies people. So we know that Malaysia Airlines, our differentiator in this business is customer experience. No doubt that we continue to innovate so that our customers will have a seamless journey...you can see clearly on our website, our mobile apps that we continue to innovate for our customers," Izham said.

Taking the cue from Malaysia itself being known worldwide as a food paradise and Malaysians' great passion for eating, the national airlines has also embarked on an aggressive move to improve its food and beverage division.

"We have established a task force with our service providers locally and overseas with one objective in mind, to make sure our customers are well served and happy with our food.

"We have also rebranded and renovated our lounges to provide more experience, a better experience for our customers. Likewise, Enrich, our loyalty programme for our customers, has been expanded to engage more partners so that our customers are able to benefit from the miles they earned," he said.

 All these are being done with only one objective in mind – to please customers centred on flying people to their destinations as safely and comfortably as possible as a premium airline.

By the same token, Izham said his team realised that Malaysia Airlines still had a lot of breakages and a lot of hard work had gone into reducing the gaps including demonstrating "our utmost apology" and showing the airline's seriousness in addressing problems to the organisation and staff.

"This thing can only happen if the management team embraces the centre of gravity of Malaysia Airlines which is customer experience," he said.