TIME Aviation

Malaysia Airlines Struggles to Salvage Its Image a Year After Flight 370 Disappearance

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MANAN VATSYAYANA—AFP/Getty Images Airport groundstaff walk past Malaysia Airlines planes parked on the tarmac at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on June 17, 2014.

With a new CEO and an evolving marketing strategy, the beleaguered airline is trying to rebrand and reinvent

The past year has been a terrible one for Malaysia Airlines. On March 8, 2014, Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur bound for the Chinese capital, Beijing, lost contact with air-traffic controllers less than an hour after takeoff, and vanished from radar screens shortly thereafter.

What followed was an unprecedented multinational search across over a million square miles that cost tens of millions of dollars in what has turned out to be one of the biggest aviation mysteries of all time.

Then in mid-July, disaster hit Malaysia Airlines again when MH17 went down over Ukraine. This time, the cause of the aircraft’s disappearance from the sky seemed clearer — a surface-to-air missile allegedly fired by pro-Russian rebels engaged in a battle with Ukrainian forces.

Many would argue that the Malaysian carrier was simply unfortunate to have lost a second plane in just over four months, especially since more than 30 other airlines had continued to fly over eastern Ukraine despite the violent conflict raging there (and a warning from the International Civil Aviation Organization). However, the disaster only exacerbated the loss of goodwill that Malaysia Airlines was already facing, especially given the lack of evidence on the whereabouts of MH370.

One year later, those whereabouts are still just as shrouded in mystery. The embattled airline is doing everything it can — including a $1.7 billion overhaul that involves laying off 30% of its staff — to salvage revenues as well as reputation. The Malaysian government assumed total ownership last year and aims to make the firm profitable by 2017.

“Before some of these accidents, airline safety was not top of the minds of most passengers, because it’s taken for granted,” Bennett Yim Chi-kin, a marketing professor at the University of Hong Kong, tells TIME, adding that disasters like these tend to impact the entire industry. “The factor of safety is now back to being a high criterion when selecting an airline.”

Yim says salvaging Malaysia Airlines’ brand equity will take some time. Losses of $368 million in the first three quarters of last year, as well as marketing slipups like a marketing tweet asking “Want to go somewhere but don’t know where?” and a promotion quizzing travelers about their “bucket lists” have already made the turnaround an uphill battle.

Enter Christoph Mueller, a man described by industry experts as a “battle-hardened veteran.” Mueller assumed his position as CEO of Malaysia Airlines last Sunday, one week before the anniversary of the MH370 disappearance and one day before the airline’s owners — state-owned investment fund Khazanah Nasional — announced a plan to ax 6,000 of its 20,000 employees. Mueller is an old hand in the airline industry fresh off a successful restructuring of Ireland’s struggling national carrier Aer Lingus. But reviving Malaysia Airlines will be a far bigger challenge, and the 52-year-old’s new job is one that few people in the industry would relish.

“I would say it probably is among the toughest,” John Strickland of JLS Consulting told AP, but added that Mueller’s position as an outsider — the first foreigner at the airline’s helm — could prove advantageous.

Malaysia’s tourism numbers have gone up in spite of (and some even argue owing to the raised national profile generated by) the two disasters, with a 10% bump resulting in some 22.9 million foreign arrivals until October last year. However, the airline also faces increasing competition from several low-cost airlines, including Malaysian private carrier AirAsia.

AirAsia experienced its own disaster on Dec. 28, when Flight QZ8501, run by its Indonesian affiliate, crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 162 people on board. The aircraft, traveling from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore, was retrieved from the water piece by piece over the next two months. The final remnant of fuselage was recovered last Saturday, Agence France-Presse reported, and 103 bodies have been salvaged so far. F.H. Bambang Soelistyo, the leader of the Indonesian search effort, said in a press conference that family members of the victims would be consulted before setting a final date for the search effort.

AirAsia’s reputation has not taken as much of a hit as that of Malaysia Airlines, largely because of the efforts of its dynamic and savvy CEO Tony Fernandes. Fernandes rushed to the front lines of the disaster almost immediately, and continued providing updates and messages of sympathy to his sizeable social-media following, in what many say has set the benchmark for how industry leaders should respond to a crisis.

By comparison, Malaysia Airlines’ honchos appeared flip-flopping and rudderless, with families callously told their loved ones were lost via SMS, or learning the latest developments via journalists’ questions.

“The No. 1 thing is you have to be fast, you need a very quick response,” Yim says. “Being honest, being sincere about your response also is very important.”

Many say comparing the two airlines is unfair, considering the vastly different natures of their respective disasters. Certainly, though, reputations must be earned, and for Malaysia Airlines and its new CEO, the most effective method of disaster management moving forward will be avoiding them in the first place.

TIME World

Exclusive: 29 Instagrams That Defined the World in 2014

See some of the most powerful images shared on Instagram this year

As Instagram hit a milestone this month, with its number of monthly active users ballooning to 300 million, TIME, in association with the photo-sharing app, takes a look back at the key moments of 2014.

The selection of images, shared by some of Instagram’s most popular and respected photographers, offers an intimate view of some of the defining events of the year: From the toll of war in Gaza to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and from the border between Mexico and the U.S. all the way to Mongolia, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.

“Real moments are captured and posted on Instagram every single day, from Nana Kofi Acquah’s image of a Tanzanian doctor timing a baby’s labored breathing using his mobile phone, to Brendan Hoffman’s haunting first reactions upon arriving at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine,” says Pamela Chen, Instagram’s Editorial Director. “These are just a sampling of the powerful images shared by people around the world in 2014.”

Read next: The Top 10 Photos of 2014

TIME Ukraine

Video of MH17 Crash Emerges as Officials Begin Clearing Debris

The footage shows villagers' immediate reaction to the crash

New video footage taken moments after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in eastern Ukraine has emerged as investigators begin clearing the crash site debris.

The clip, obtained by the Associated Press four months after the flight was downed in July, shows how close the crash came to hitting a village. Ukraine says Russian-supported rebels in the eastern part of the country shot down the plane, while state-run Russian media says it has evidence that indicate Ukraine’s air force was responsible. All 298 people aboard the flight were killed.

Dutch officials and authorities from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are transporting debris from the site to the city of Kharkiv, which, along with the Netherlands, is one site where the investigation is still being conducted.

[AP]

TIME Ukraine

MH17: Preliminary Crash Report Blames ‘High-Energy Objects’

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Dmitry Lovetsky—AP Dutch and Australian investigators examine pieces of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the village of Rassipne, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine on July 25, 2014.

"Initial results of the investigation point towards an external cause of the MH17 crash"

Dutch experts have released a preliminary report into the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which crashed in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on July 17, saying that the plane was hit by “high-energy objects.”

All 298 people on board, including 193 Dutch citizens, died in the incident.

The report is the first official paper to come from the Dutch Safety Board, which is heading an international investigation into the crash. However, investigators still have not had a chance to examine the crash site as fighting between pro-Kiev and pro-Kremlin forces continues nearby.

“The initial results of the investigation point towards an external cause of the MH17 crash. More research will be necessary to determine the cause with greater precision,” said Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board.

The Boeing 777 flight was heading to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam when it exploded over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine. Although most experts believe the plane was shot down by pro-Russian rebels, the Dutch report was careful not to assign blame, but did point to the absence of evidence of technical failure from either the aircraft or crew.

“The pattern of damage observed in the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft was consistent with the damage that would be expected from a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from the outside,” said the report.

The Dutch Safety Board hopes to produce a final report within a year.

TIME Malaysia

Malaysia Airlines Asked for Travelers’ ‘Bucket Lists’ in Ill-Advised Contest

A member of ground crew works on a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 airplane on the runway at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang
Olivia Harris—Reuters A member of ground crew works on a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 airplane on the runway at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on July 25, 2014

Would-be passengers in Australia and New Zealand were invited to share their bucket lists in hopes of winning a free ticket

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) launched a competition in Australia and New Zealand four days ago, according to media reports, in which it said it was giving away free economy-class tickets and free iPads.

The marketing ploy was to be expected from an airline still reeling from the twin tragedies of MH17 and MH370, but the competition name was bizarre: My Ultimate Bucket List.

Contestants had to explain “What and where would you like to tick off on your bucket list?”

The Merriam-Webster definition of bucket list is “a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying.” The association is horrific, given that 537 people lost their lives flying on the airline this year.

The contest appears to have since been withdrawn, with the original competition link now leading to a 404 error page. A PDF of the competition terms and conditions could be found here at time of publication, but besides that there no longer appear to be details of the competition on the MAS site.

The launch of the competition was picked up in the Australian travel-industry press and even name-checked in British tabloid the Daily Mail. But perhaps MAS has since realized that asking prospective passengers to think up a bucket list before accepting a free ticket on one of its planes might be construed as macabre.

The airline can at least be grateful that online gaffes can be deleted. In 2003, the Hong Kong Tourism Board ran an ad promising would-be visitors that “Hong Kong will take your breath away.” At the time, SARS — severe acute respiratory syndrome — had killed about 100 people, mostly in Hong Kong and China. But the ad ran in British and European print magazines — and there was no time to change the slogan before the presses started to roll.

TIME Behind the Photos

Why Violent News Images Matter

Fred Ritchin discusses the graphic display of war and suffering in the news

A recent slew of situations resulting in catastrophic violence and death, including the Israel-Gaza war, the armed expansion of the Islamic State, the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane in the Ukraine, the ongoing conflict in Syria, and also the spread of the Ebola virus, has led to a renewed debate as to what kinds of imagery media outlets should be expected to show.

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Jerome Sessini—MagnumThe remains of a passenger on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that was shot over eastern Ukraine, July 17, 2014.

One argument is that editors working for mainstream outlets, and perhaps even photographers as well, are unethically withholding from readers certain horrific imagery of contemporary conflicts and disasters because of a fear of offending or shocking, or even from a fear that readers will abandon the publication altogether. In his new book, War Porn, photographer Christoph Bangert asks: “How can we refuse to acknowledge a mere representation—a picture—of a horrific event, while other people are forced to live through the horrific event itself?”

Kenneth Jarecke, author of an excruciating photograph of a horribly burned Iraqi soldier during the first Persian Gulf War that went largely unpublished, posed a similar question in American Photo magazine in 1991: “If we’re big enough to fight a war, we should be big enough to look at it.”

There is, concurrently, a fear by others that readers are seeing too many such images and, as a result, are losing their ability to empathize and evaluate what is going on in the avalanche of violence and destruction depicted. Some editors also assert that, as family publications, the added risk of traumatizing children argues against the publication of the most egregious imagery.

Professionals may be at risk as well. A recent, first-ever study concentrates on 116 journalists working in three international newsrooms who are repeatedly exposed to images of graphic violence via social media, much of it “deemed too shocking to be shown to audiences.” The study, led by Anthony Feinstein, MD, of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, concludes, as summarized by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, “that frequent, repetitive viewing of violent news-related video and other media raises news professionals’ vulnerability to a range of psychological injury, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

A debate over what to publish is, of course, somewhat anachronistic given the propensity of social media sites to publish nearly anything and everything, but relevant nonetheless, given that many professional photographers and picture editors continue to support an effort to witness and represent world events in a reasoned way. As the Guardian’s head of photography, Roger Tooth, recently wrote, “But, in the end, what right do I have as a picture editor to censor what people can see? It’s all out there on the internet or on your timeline. All I can do is try to help keep the Guardian’s coverage as humane and decent as possible.”

Liberia Battles Spreading Ebola Epidemic
John Moore—Getty ImagesA corpse lies in a classroom now used as Ebola ward on Aug. 15, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia.

As for myself, I have also been torn by a different set of questions: Why shouldn’t we be able to view, in the supermarkets themselves, photographs and videos that depict the conditions in which chickens and cows are held—before we purchase their eggs, milk, and meat? And when we buy sweatshirts and sneakers shouldn’t there be photo essays available that explore the conditions in which these products are made, and by whom, so that we can make informed choices based in part upon the well-being of the workers in the factories? Or when we fill a prescription at the pharmacy, shouldn’t the lab monkeys and rats who suffered, often egregiously, to aid in the creation of these life-saving drugs be somehow pictured, at least as a mark of respect?

Why focus then on the imagery of war, but circumvent so much of the enormous day-to-day suffering among both humans and animals? Why, for example, is there no similar clamor to be confronted with the images of civilians and soldiers who, years later, must contend with their own chronic injuries that resulted from previous conflicts? Or why don’t we demand to see the faces of those politicians who sent the soldiers to war, and not only the victims of their policies?

I suspect that part of the answer as to why we have such a fascination with viewing large-scale violence is its contested, apocalyptic nature, as if a struggle for good against evil might be being played out before the camera, with elements of heroism, bravery, betrayal, and cowardice, and with winners and losers. Certainly war, with its arresting imagery of bombs exploding, landscapes transformed, and soldiers and civilians facing cataclysmic injury and sudden death, can be highly visible and, as a result, vividly photographable. War can be made to appear as a variegated spectacle, whereas a chicken placed in a cage so that is has no room to turn lacks the potential for incandescent visuals or for redemptive glory (and we are the ones eating those chickens and their eggs). And, of course, viewing animals kept in such conditions could be devastating for the marketing of industrial farming; especially when it happens to other people, war may stimulate the economy.

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Zein Al-Rifai—AFP/Getty ImagesA Syrian woman and youths, one of them carrying a wounded baby, flee the site of a reported barrel-bomb attack by Syrian government forces in the northern city of Aleppo on June 26, 2014.

But I suspect that there is another very powerful reason why photographers, in particular, might clamor for others to see the worst of what they have experienced in wartime. Despite serious misgivings about invading the privacy of others, photographers have often maintained that they feel it necessary to witness and represent the deaths, calamitous injuries and grief that they discover in conflict situations, and in many cases have been asked to do so by those who are its victims. Once those pictures are made, however, the implicit contract is that they be transmitted and seen by others, especially by those who may have even a small chance of preventing such tragedies from continuing or from multiplying. If these pictures remain unpublished there may be a guilty sense that a promise, a redemptive one, has not been kept. The trauma of witnessing such devastation, and the powerlessness that may accompany it, can be more difficult to resolve if one is prevented from sharing what one has seen with others—the reason the photographer was there in the first place.

As for the readers, though, it may not always be doing them a service to burden them with one’s own most visceral sense of horror, at least not on a continual basis. Whereas a grieving mother in Gaza deserves the whole world’s attention, so too do the families of those who died in the Malaysian Airlines crash, as do Yazidi survivors who endured the terror of the Islamic State fighters while hiding on a mountaintop. Should a large number of those victimized by violence be confronted by a reader looking at one wrenching image after another, without sufficient political recourse to ameliorate the great majority of what is depicted, the larger world may seem so senseless and repugnant that the reader tries to disconnect—hardly the result that an eyewitness would want.

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Issouf Sanogo—AFP/Getty ImagesMembers of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) lynch a man suspected of being a former Seleka rebel on Feb. 5, 2014, in Bangui.

Personally I find that I cannot look at every image of disaster that is published, and I try not to. A memory of those killed in the Malaysian Airlines crash is powerfully within me; I do not need photographs of covered bodies or children’s toys to make the loss of their lives more searingly awful. I do not need to see every funeral from Gaza to imagine the abject, enduring void left by their loss. Nor do I need a picture to explain what it is like for the Yazidi to hide from armed men who are bent upon their further destruction, considering them heretics—thinking about their anguished solitude gives me nightmares enough.

But whether I look at these photographs or not their existence remains important; they provide reference points for both the present and the longer view of history. Whatever pictures I see, I can imagine so many that I have not looked at and so many more agonizing moments of private torment that will never be witnessed. Whatever publications show, I know that the ramifications of the pictures are probably much, much more complex than could be contained in the fractional second depicted. This awareness is also fueled by social media—one knows that the descent into hell takes many steps, and an increasing number of them can be found only a click or two away from what mainstream media presents.

There is no calculus to determine the most effective way to show horror. But certainly it would be important to investigate the processes that engender it, and not just the shocking results, no matter how visual. It would be also helpful to begin to try and trace alternatives to such catastrophes, and to provide examples of even partial resolutions. Then show those who must endure the traumas of war once the spectacle has faded—the physically and psychologically wounded, orphans, widows, parents left without children—and remember them in the years to come. And, finally, begin contemplating the best of the “photography of peace,” and not only that of war—the beauties of ceasefires, and of healing, and of some of the horrors that were prevented from happening.

Fred Ritchin is a professor at NYU and co-director of the Photography & Human Rights program at the Tisch School of the Arts. His latest book, Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen, was published by Aperture in 2013

TIME Ukraine

Dutch PM Suspends Search for MH17 Victims’ Remains

Flowers And Tributes For Victims Flight MH17 Continue To Arrive At Amsterdam Airport
Michel Porro—Getty Images Flowers and tributes are left to commemorate the victims of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport on August 1, 2014 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Officials say efforts to retrieve victims' remains have been hampered by continuing clashes

Netherlands’ prime minister suspended the search for victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on Wednesday, as clashes continued to erupt in areas surrounding the crash site.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that continuing clashes between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists posed too great of a risk to search crews who have struggled to gain safe passage into the area, the Associated Press reports.

The MH17 site is still scattered remains and belongings of the 298 passengers who were killed after a missile fired from east Ukraine struck the aircraft on July 17. The Netherlands has received 228 coffins to date, according to the AP.

Rutte praised the efforts of the Dutch-led team of international recovery workers and vowed to resume the search once hostilities in the area had subsided.

[AP]

TIME Ukraine

Investigators Finally Reach Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash Site

Alexander Hug deputy head for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) monitoring mission in Ukraine, looks on next to armed pro-Russian separatists on the way to the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash site, near Donetsk on July 30, 2014.
Sergei Karpukhin—Reuters Alexander Hug, deputy head for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe monitoring mission in Ukraine, looks on next to armed pro-Russian separatists on the way to the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site, near Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, on July 30, 2014

Clashes between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists had kept the team from the site until today

International investigators reached the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 for the first time since the Boeing 777 was downed by a missile in eastern Ukraine on July 17, the Associated Press reports.

Fighting between the Ukrainian military and the pro-Russian separatists had kept the investigation team, made up of Dutch and Australian forensic experts and officials with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, from accessing the site.

But on Thursday, the team was able to pass through both Ukrainian and rebel checkpoints. A spokesman for the Ukrainian government announced a “day of quiet” Thursday to ensure the safety of the team, though reporters on the scene say clashes were ongoing in the area.

Ukraine has intensified its assault on rebel-held territory since MH17 crashed with 298 people on board, and fighting has left more than 1,000 dead, including hundreds of civilians.

The investigators limited their initial visit to reconnaissance, according to the New York Times, and left at around 5 p.m. local time to head back to the rebel-held city of Donetsk, about 65 km (40 miles) from the site.

They are expected to focus on retrieving human remains — Australian Foreign Minister said up to 80 bodies are believed to still be strewn across the crash site — and collect victims’ belongings, the AP reports.

[AP]

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine Official: Rebels Placed Land Mines on Roads to MH17 Crash Site

A piece of debris of the fuselage at the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Grabovo, east of Donetsk, on July 25, 2014.
Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images A piece of debris of the fuselage at the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Grabovo, east of Donetsk, on July 25, 2014.

Spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council says it has been "impossible" for international investigators to reach site

An Ukrainian official accused pro-Russian separatist fighters of lining the roads to the crash site of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with land mines Wednesday, making it impossible for international investigators to access the scene of the crash.

The Associated Press reports that observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe attempted to reach the crash site on Wednesday, only to be turned back after an encounter with rebels in the area.

The areas surrounding the crash site have been punctuated by heavy fighting, with at least 19 people killed in the past 24 hours, AP reports.

Col. Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, said that rebels had installed heavy artillery in and around the 13.5 square mile crash site, according to the Wall Street Journal. Lysenko also accused rebels of mining the approaches to the area.

“This makes the work of the international experts impossible,” Lysenko said.

[AP]

TIME Ukraine

Kerry Says Not ‘a Shred’ of Evidence Russia Wants to Ease Ukraine Fighting

Kerry warned Russia would face stiffer sanctions if it continued to arm and support Ukraine's separatists

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry threatened to impose wider sanctions on Russia in a Tuesday press conference, arguing that Russian officials had “not shown a shred of evidence” that they want to de-escalate the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Kerry accused Russia of continuing to ship arms, funds and personnel into eastern Ukraine even after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. If Russia failed to reign in its separatist allies, “we and our European partners will take additional measures and impose wider sanctions on key sections of the Russian economy,” Kerry said during a Washington, D.C. appearance alongside Ukraine Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.

The announcement echoed a warning from the White House on Monday that the United States and European Union were prepared to tighten sanctions over key sectors of the Russian economy.

Kerry also blasted separatists militias for blocking international investigators’ access to the MH17 crash site and failing to return victims’ remains and belongings to their families. Kerry urged Russia to intervene, calling the behavior “an appalling disregard for human decency.”

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