It has always been a company run by bumiputeras.
But for the first time, Malaysia Airlines (MAS), reeling under twin disasters and losses running into billions of ringgit, has appointed a German aviation expert as its CEO.
And there was a strong reaction to Mr Christoph R. Mueller's appointment by former premier Mahathir Mohamad.
"Malaysians are stupid. They don't know how to manage aviation," liberal news portal Malaysiakini quoted him as saying yesterday.
Dr Mahathir, 89, said that that was why the company had incurred losses.
He added: "And now those responsible for the losses try to make things right."
In August, the Malaysian government's investment fund, Khazanah Nasional, had announced a RM6 billion (S$2 billion) plan to rescue the ailing airline, aiming to return it to profit by 2017.
MAS fortunes took a nosedive this year with the double air tragedies involving a still missing MH370 and MH17 downed in Ukraine.
It marked its seventh quarterly loss in a row recently when it posted a net loss of RM575.6 million for the three months ending Sept 30, widening from a RM373.2 million deficit in the same period last year.
Khazanah said Mr Mueller will be appointed as CEO-designate effective Jan 1.
Mr Mueller has been CEO of Aer Lingus, the national airline of Ireland, since 2009.
Dr Mahathir is known for his no-holds-barred comments.
In October, he said the suggestions for complete equality between the genders is impossible due to incontrovertible physiological differences between men and women.
Speaking at an International Islamic Forum, he said gender role reversals in the pursuit of equality were misguided. "Stupid idea to suggest that men do what women do and women do what men do," he was quoted as saying.
He has also taken potshots his own former partymen, saying that Umno leaders who stay too long in power will leave behind members who are more stupid than them.
The former Umno president said leaders at grassroots level only allowed members more stupid than them to join the party.
"They select such people in order to remain much longer as leaders," he said in reply to a question from a participant at a youth forum in Kuala Lumpur.
This comment was made in September, a month before the party elections in which his 48-year-old son Mukhriz was among six candidates vying for the three posts of vice-president, a bid he lost.
This article was first published on December 7, 2014.
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