Navigating a new growth course

Updated: 2013-04-18 10:30

By He Wei (China Daily)

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Navigating a new growth course

A China Eastern Airlines' aircraft at Kunming International Airport. The carrier's revenue rose to 85.6 billion yuan ($13.8 billion) last year. [Provided to China Daily] 

Carriers must look at multiple, diversified platforms to stay afloat, says top executive

"You can choose anything but aviation as your career choice" are not the words you would normally associate with an aviation industry expert. But Ma Xulun, general manager of China Eastern Airlines Co Ltd, seems more than justified when he makes this remark after more than two decades of service in an industry that has often been buffeted by severe bouts of turbulence.

During his long stint, which included time at China's flagship carrier, Air China Ltd, as president, Ma has seen many ups and downs in the aviation business, especially due to global upheaval.

"It is the stress that really takes its toll," 49-year-old Ma said, pointing to his fast-graying hair, in what is essentially a "high risk, high cost, but low return" job.

"Sound sleep is something that I often crave. But with my business so closely tied up with thousands of people's lives, I know that it is a dream and I need to be awake always," he said.

Ma's fears are not unfounded. The global aviation industry has been going through its worst phase, with sluggish demand and high fuel costs severely denting profit margins.

The airlines sector managed to eke out a meager 1 percent growth in profit last year, according to the International Air Transport Association.

However, China Eastern has managed to buck the global trend. Not only is it working above the global average, but managed to clock revenues of 85.6 billion yuan ($13.8 billion), and profit of 3.43 billion yuan last year. The company's revenue and profit in 2011 was 83.97 billion yuan and 3.6 billion yuan respectively. Much of the credit for the carrier's success can be attributed to the hands-on and deft approach pioneered by Ma.

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