Dato’ Sri Idris Jala was rather an unknown name until his sudden rise to national prominence when he accepted the appointment as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Malaysia Airlines, MAS on 1 December 2005, under a 3-year contractual agreement. He undertook the helm from Datuk Ahmad Fuaad Dahlan who retired 4 months earlier.
Before joining MAS, Idris, who is from the Kelabit ancestry, was attached with a major oil company, SHELL since 1982 and has hold a various number of key positions in the company, serving across different divisions and regions. He was overseeing Shell Malaysia’s business in the LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) and the downstream sector, as well as holding posts in human resource, business development, retail, consultancy, LPG and re-engineering. He also hold the position of Vice President, Business Development Consultancy for SHELL International, which was based in London. His string of portfolios in SHELL, among others, are as follows:
- Head, Staff Development & Industrial Relation Officer, Sarawak Shell Berhad, 1982 – 1987
- Head, Human Resource Development, Sarawak Shell Berhad, 1993
- Senior Manager, Retail Sales, Shell Malaysia, 1997
- Chairman & Managing Director of LPG, SHELL Sri Lanka, 1998
- Vice President, Retail Marketing, Shell International, 2000
- Managing Director and Executive Director, Shell Malaysia (Gas and Power), 2003
The appointment of Idris as the Managing Director of MAS initially caused a national stir as he himself does not come from the aviation industry. Further, MAS was somewhat troubled with a financial crisis and had been suffering loss for years, as well as embroiled with the declining performance culture of its staff. But people who have known and worked with him knew that Idris is someone who always deliver the results, especially his work in turning SHELL’s operation around when he was attached with the oil company.
But he did not wait long to make his mark. Among one of his very first moves after taking over at MAS is to implement cost cutting measures, which included putting the MAS building and its other assets for sale. He introduced Voluntary Separation Scheme or VSS which trimmed 2600 employees from MAS’ workforce, cutting more than RM600 million in expenses, as well as implementing new pricing structures.
With the strategies, MAS returned to profitability for the 2007 fiscal year, exceeding all expectations and estimates. But they did not stop there. On May 2008, Idris appeared in the national television announcing their first ever ‘zero fare’ for domestic and a selection of international flights, a move that raised his spat between him and Air Asia’s boss, Tony Fernandes to a new level. With MAS to set to record new profits, their employees can await a windfall of bonuses.
Dato’ Sri Idris Jala graduated from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang in 1982 with a Degree in Management, finishing with an award as one of the top graduates. He later obtained a Masters Degree from University of Warwick, UK, 4 years later. (Image: Daylife.com)