A joint initiative of the Ocean Steamship Company of Liverpool, the Straits Steamship of Singapore and Imperial Airways led to a proposal to the government of the Colonial Straits Settlement to run an air service between Penang and Singapore, resulting in the incorporation of Malayan Airways Limited (MAL), on the 12th of October, 1937.
Ten years later, MAL operated its first flight as a national airline, turning from a domestic carrier into an international airlines in just a decade.
In 1963, after the formation of Malaysia, MAL changed its name to Malaysian Airlines Limited and incorporated Borneo Airways soon after.
In 1965, after Singapore’s separation, MAL became a bi-national airline, changing its name to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA).
In less than two decades from its creation, MAL grew to over 2,400 employees and a fleet using the Comet IV jets, as well as various other aircraft.
New services were constantly added, but in 1973, MSA disappeared, each partner going a separate way. Malaysia introduced Malaysian Airline Limited, which was subsequently renamed Malaysian Airline System, or simply known as Malaysia Airlines.
Since 1973, Malaysia Airlines had its highs and lows, but managed to receive over 100 awards in the last decade, especially the notorious “5-star Airline” rating by Skytrax in 2005 and 2006.
Between the 1st and 2nd of April, 1997, a Boeing 777-2H6 ER that was going to be delivered to Malaysia Airlines broke a world record by flying around the world on the Seattle – Kuala Lumpur – Seattle route, in a test flight.
In February 2011, Malaysia Airlines won the ‘Travel Merchant of the Year’ award category at the MasterCard Hall of Fame Marketing Awards 2010, an event in the credit card industry across 14 markets in South Asia and South East Asia. The ‘Travel Merchant of the Year’ category was open to merchants such as airlines and other travel related service providers that work with financial institutions or directly with MasterCard to provide cardholders with unique benefits. Malaysia Airlines’ partnership with MasterCard has been on-going since 2005, collaborating in a series of programmes and events including the MITM Travel Fair, MasterCard Premium Travel Promo, Alice in Wonderland Campaign and Pavilion Pitstop – Red Carpet Gala Night.
In April 2011, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), Malaysia Airlines launched its new A330-300 aircraft, the first of 15 aircraft to be delivered to Malaysia Airlines. The traditional water salute welcomed the aircraft to the Malaysia Airlines fleet, followed by a mixed drum ensemble. After the B737-800, it is the second aircraft to sport the dynamic livery with red and blue lines representing the Malaysia Airlines’ corporate colors. These aircraft serve the growing markets of China, North Asia, South Asia and Australia.
In June 2011, Boeing and Malaysia Airlines announced the airline has exercised an option to purchase 10 additional Next-Generation 737-800s. The order was valued at more than $800 million at current list prices. The Next-Generation 737 supported the airline’s strategic fleet modernization plan and reinforced the superior economics of the most fuel efficient single-aisle airplane operating in the market. The 737-800s are the first in Asia to sport the passenger-pleasing “Boeing Sky Interior” and are fitted with Blended Winglets, which increase flying range, improve fuel efficiency by up to four percent, and reduce CO2 emissions and takeoff noise.
In December 2011, Malaysia Airlines reported a net loss of RM1.28 billion for the fourth quarter of 2011, bringing the Group’s full year results to a net loss of RM2.52 billion for the financial year 2011 on the back of a marginal increase in Group revenue (up 2% to RM13.90 billion) and carrying 1.3 million more passengers (totaling 17 million) compared to the previous year.
In October 2012, Malaysia Airlines celebrated its 40th anniversary from the day it took off as Malaysian Airline System Berhad on October 1, 1972. From its beginnings with a fleet of 6 Boeing 737-200 jets, 9 Fokker F27 Friendship and 3 Britten Norman Islanders, the airline has grown to be the undisputed flying ambassador of Malaysia spreading its wings to 76 destinations across the globe.
In January 2013, Malaysia Airlines became part of oneworld, thus adding one of Asia’s leading airlines to the global airline alliance that aims to be the first choice for frequent international travelers the world over. As part of the world’s premier global airline alliance, Malaysia Airline strengthened its competitiveness and was able to offer its customers an unrivalled alliance global network served by partners including some of the best and biggest airlines in the world. Malaysia Airlines connected 16 new destinations and one country – Brunei – to the oneworld map.
In February 2013, Malaysia Airlines signed a purchase agreement with Avions de Transport Regional G.I.E (ATR) for 20 firm ATR 72-600 turbo-prop aircraft plus option for 16 additional aircraft. The total purchased was valued at over US$ 840 million, including options. Malaysia Airlines had 42 ATR 72s purchased since 2007 operated by its subsidiaries Firefly (12) and MASwings (10).
In October 2013, Malaysia Airlines was voted ‘Asia’s Leading Airline’ at the (WTA) World Travel Awards 2013. The World Travel Awards is based on votes by travel industry peers and customers. The World Travel Awards, considered the Oscars of the travel industry, is a unique benchmark for industry quality and business excellence.
In February 2014, after three months of renovation works, Malaysia Airlines launched its refurbished Golden Lounge at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
In 2014, less than five months apart, Malaysia Airlines lost two aircraft under unusual circumstances – Flight 370 that disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that was shot down while flying over eastern Ukraine. Prior to 2014, the airline had one of the world’s best safety records – just two fatal accidents in 68 years of operation.
In August 2014, Khazanah Nasional the Malaysian government’s sovereign wealth fund, which then owned 69.37% of the airline, announced its intention to renationalize the airline by purchase remaining ownership from minority shareholders and de-listing the airline from Malaysia’s stock exchange.
On September 1st, 2015, Malaysian Airline System Berhad (MAS) relaunched as Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB), with the rebranding of the airline also commencing that day.
In 2016, Malaysia Airlines introduced on their Airbus A330 300 fleet new Business Class fully lie-flat seats provided by Thompson Aero Seating. The new Business Class features 27 seats, 90% of which have direct aisle access, with a width of 20.6 inches and a length of 76 inches (fully-flat) and equipped with a Panasonic 16-inch touch screen in-flight entertainment system.
In 2017, Malaysia Airlines received the IATA Fast Travel Green certificate in recognition of Malaysia Airlines’ efforts in making passengers’ travel more convenient and flexible via its self-service facilities in the following areas: check-in, bags ready-to-go (self-tagging and Fast Baggage Drop Off) and flight re-booking.
Early 2018, Malaysia Airlines put into service its first Airbus A350 aircraft on the Kuala Lumpur – London route. The Airbus A350 features a total of 286 seats: 4 seats in First Class, Malaysia Airlines being the first airline to offer First Class cabin on A350 aircraft, 31 seats in Business Class in the same configuration as on the Airbus A330 aircraft, and 251 seats in Economy Class.
In December 2018, Malaysia Airlines launched its new Business Suite cabin, after deciding to exit the First Class market by rebranding its First Class service as premium business class service. Airbus A350 and A380 aircraft offer Business Suites on routes between Kuala Lumpur and London, Tokyo, Osaka, and Sydney.
In February 2019, Malaysia Airlines officially launched Amal, a pilgrim-centric service dedicated for Hajj and Umrah. Amal by Malaysia Airlines operates scheduled and charter flights to Jeddah and Madinah with Airbus A380 800 and A330 aircraft.
Until 2000, Malaysia Airlines aircraft have been involved in two fatal accidents, with a total of 134 victims – the first one in December, 1977, when a hijacked Boeing 737-200 crashed in Tanjung Kupang, Johor, causing 100 victims, and the second, in September, 1995, when a Fokker 50 crashed during approach in Tawau, Sabah, and 34 people were killed.
Two fatal accidents occurred just months apart in 2014 under unusual circumstances.
A third fatal accident occurred on March 8, 2014, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing. The Boeing 777-200ER was carrying 227 passengers from 14 nations and 12 Malaysian crew members. Although multinational search and rescue efforts for the missing aircraft have been reported as the largest in history, the whereabouts of the aircraft remain unknown. Officials from both the Malaysian government and Malaysia Airlines believe that all 239 people on board perished.
On 17 July 2014 occurred the fourth fatal accident when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a scheduled passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down while flying over eastern Ukraine, killing all on board, 283 passengers and 15 crew members. The accident is the deadliest airliner shootdown and the eighth-deadliest aviation disaster.