MH370 mystery: 'Very surprised' if no breakthrough in next 3-4 years, says Malaysia Airlines CEO

Key Points
  • Circumstances that brought down flight MH370 in March 2014 remain a mystery, but scientific advances should yield some breakthroughs in three to four years, Malaysia Airlines CEO Peter Bellew said
  • He added that restructuring is proceeding well at Malaysia Airlines and the company will likely turn profitable by the second half of 2018
  • The carrier is also looking to re-list on the local stock exchange in 2019
Malaysia Airlines CEO: Confident we'll return to profitability

The circumstances that brought down Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 remain one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries, but the carrier's chief executive said he believed a breakthrough can be made within the next four years.

The plane, a Boeing 777, was carrying 239 people en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur when it vanished from radar screens in March 2014. Search operations concentrated in the southern Indian Ocean, but the aircraft was not found.

Pieces of debris were found at various locations, but the search was called off in January this year.

"(Given) the advances in scientific research around the location where the aircraft may have gone down ... I personally would be very surprised if in the next three or four years, we don't get a breakthrough. I think that's the timescale we're looking at," the airline's CEO, Peter Bellew, told CNBC on Wednesday.

The 2014 double tragedy of MH370 and MH17 — an Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur passenger flight that was shot down when it was flying over eastern Ukraine — aggravated Malaysia Airlines' financial woes.

The carrier, which also suffered from increased competition and the weakening ringgit, was taken private by sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad in an attempt to keep operations afloat.

After the airline cut jobs and unprofitable routes, Bellew said it is expected to turn profitable by the second half of next year as its focus on growing the business-class segment is yielding results. The company is also looking to re-list on the local stock exchange the following year, he said.

The CEO's optimism also stemmed from his belief that oil prices are heading down towards $25 or $30 per barrel by the end of this decade as renewable energy and new battery technologies become increasingly common. That will lead to an "unprecedented decade of benefits for airlines," he said.

"Lots of aircrafts that don't look economic at $55 per barrel to operate suddenly, at $35 per barrel, will look like great sense, including the A380s," Bellow said.

"We're quite confident now. We've seen significant uptick in our business over the last 12 months. Our confidence is buoyed by the fact that the passenger numbers have increased very significantly ... alongside that, the brand has become much stronger."