Malaysia Airlines has appointed Izham Ismail as group chief executive officer designate.

He will replace Irishman Peter Bellew, who quit earlier this week to join Ryanair after a little more than a year in the job. 

Izham, who has served as chief operating officer since last November, will become the airline's third CEO in two years. 

Bellew's predecessor, Christoph Mueller, also quit before the end of his contract. Mueller had joined the airline after he left Aer Lingus. 

Malaysia Airlines was caught by surprise on Tuesday when Ryanair announced Bellew was joining the company. 

Bellew later said a sense of responsibility to his native country led to his decision to leave. 

Mueller had cited personal circumstances for leaving, then later joined Emirates as its chief digital and transformation officer. 

Ryanair is trying to recruit and retain pilots after a rostering management failure caused it to cancel more than 20,000 flights over its winter season.

The airline said Bellew would be given specific responsibility for managing pilots. 

Malaysia's state investment fund, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, launched a five-year recovery plan when it took over struggling Malaysia Airlines in 2014. The fund said today that the plan remained on track. 

In a statement, Malaysia Airlines said the appointment was in line with the airline's succession plan, a part of that recovery project. 

It said Izham would officially assume his new post on December 1. He has also been appointed executive director of the airline. 

Under Bellew's leadership, Malaysia Airlines has been restructuring its fleet, aiming to achieve profitability in 2018 and to re-list its shares on the stock exchange in 2019.