Embattled Malaysia Airlines says flights to continue as normal

SEPANG, Malaysia - fter one of its planes bound for Beijing went missing.

Flight MH370, operating a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, last had contact with air traffic controllers 120 nautical miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu, Mr Ahmad Jauhari said.

The plane, carrying 239 people, lost contact with air traffic control at 2.40am on Saturday after departing Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12.41am. It was due to land in Beijing at 6.30am on the same day.

The plane disappeared without giving a distress signal - a chilling echo of an Air France flight that crashed into the South Atlantic on June 1, 2009, killing all 228 people onboard.

Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Saturday they had no confirmation that the plane had been found in Vietnam waters as reported earlier by some media.

He said information obtained by Malaysia's Foreign Ministry and Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) indicated that the report was not true.

An accident involving MAS would be a huge blow for the carrier, which has bled money for years as its struggles to fend off competition from rivals such as fast-growing AirAsia.

The flag carrier recorded its fourth straight quarterly loss during the final three months of 2013, and warned of a "challenging" year ahead due to intense competition.

It admitted in 2012 that it was in "crisis", forcing it to implement a cost-cutting campaign centred on slashing routes and other measures.

Analysts have said poor management, government interference, and union resistance to reform of the 66-year-old airline have hampered its ability to respond to intensifying competition in the industry.

About Malaysia Airlines

- Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is the government-owned flag carrier of Malaysia operating flights from its home base, Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and its secondary hub in Kota Kinabalu. It has its headquarters based in Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang, Selangor.

- With a fleet of 88 planes, it operates flights in South-east Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Middle East and between Europe and Australasia. It operates trans-pacific flights from Kuala Lumpur to Los Angeles via Tokyo.

- MAS has two short-haul subsidiaries - Firefly and MASwings. Firefly operates scheduled flights from its two home bases at Penang International Airport and Subang International Airport. The airline focuses on mostly secondary destinations within Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore. MASwings focuses on inter-Borneo flights.

- Malaysia Airlines has a freighter fleet operated by MASKargo, which manages freighter flights and aircraft cargo-hold capacity for all MAS passenger flights.

- In February 2013, MAS became a full-fledged member of oneworld alliance and is now connected to some 850 destinations in 150 countries, including the Heathrow Airport in London, across the oneworld alliance network.

- MAS was named World's Leading Airline to Asia and Asia's Leading Airline in 2010 and 2011.

- The airline reported a net loss of RM1.17 billion (S$460 million) in 2013.

Past Accidents

- On October 10 2013: Two people were killed, including co-pilot Marc Joel Bansh, 23, and passenger Tan Ah Chai, 96, when a MASwings flight from Kota Kinabalu to Kudat crashed into a house, after landing short of the runway.

- On September 15, 1995: Thirty-four people were killed and 19 survived after a Malaysia Airlines flight crashed during approach in Tawau. It had touched down 500m before the end of the 2.2km runway. While attempting to carry out a go-around, the aircraft crashed into a shantytown. The accident was caused by the pilot's poor in-flight decision-making and failure to follow standard operating procedures.

- December 4, 1977: A MAS passenger jet flying from Penang for Kuala Lumpur and Singapore was hijacked and the pilot was forced to fly directly to Singapore instead. But the Boeing 737 exploded in mid-air over Johor and killed all 100 people on the plane. Several VIPs, including agriculture minister Datuk Ali Ahmad, Public Works Department head Datuk Mahfuz Khalid, and Cuban ambassador to Japan Mario García, were also on board.

Source: Malaysia Airlines website, Agence France-Presse, Reuters