1 Oct 2007, marked the 35th anniversary of Malaysia Airlines in service, after its separation from Malaysia-Singapore Airlines. Today, it has grown to a formidable Tier 1 premium airline, serving over 90 international destinations in six continents, 400 flights carrying 48, 000 passengers daily with 59 wide body and 39 narrow body aircraft.
Its started its humble beginning in 1937 as Malayan Air Lines (MAL). The airline flew classics such as Airspeed Consul, DC3 Dakota, DC4 Skymaster, Vickers Visocunts, Lockheed Super Constellation and DeHavilland Comet. BOAC and Qantas had stakes in MAL.
It eventually evolved started into Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA) after Singapore was sacked from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965. It expanded to destinations such as Bombay, Tokyo, Perth, Rome and London. Later in early seventies, the Singaporean partners wanted to part ways and concentrate on the international sector, which is highly lucrative and do away with the subsidised domestic and rural services. As there was a nation building agenda as the priority, MSA split into SIA and Malaysia Airlines System (MAS) from 1972 and MAS continued the agenda to serve the nation.
So MAS is born. The aircraft with the large red Wau Kucing on the white circle is now flying the Malaysia flag, as the national carrier.
Business commenced at 4.30pm on 1 October 1972 from Subang International Airport with only six B737-200 to service its regional operations and and six F27 for domestic services. MAS now painfully has to re-build its international destinations, especially all the lucrative routes landing rights’ went to SIA, such as London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney. Captain Hassan Ahmad, the first Malay commercial airline captain certified by DCA, commandeered flight MH 601 to Singapore Paya Lebar Airport at this historic moment. Deputy Prime Minister Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman solemnise the event, of behalf of the Malaysian Government.
Intercontinental B707s were added and Malaysia MAS, as it was known then, started to serve Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney, West Asia and London. Then European destinations such as Frankfurt were added. All earlier B707s during MSA operations went with SIA.
The nation stood still and many wept, include HRH Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang and Deputy Prime Minister Dato’ Hussein Onn, when a special B707-206 MAS flight bore the remains of the dead Malaysian Prime Minister Allahyarham Tun Abdul Razak Hussein at SubangInternationalAirport from London arrived on 5.30pm, 15 January 1976.
In 1990, when he passed away in San Francisco, Tun Hussein Onn’s remains too were flown back to Kuala Lumpur, like his predecessor, onboard Malaysia Airlines. In mid 1976, MAS took delivery of its first DC 10-30 and marked its operation into ‘trans continental widebodies’.
Then MAS went another step ahead when in 1979, the first Airbus A300 B4 were delivered and this marked its regional operations to Seoul, Madras and Perth. Operations to Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Taipei were expanded for the addition of this second widebody type into the fleet.
MAS went into another bold step when in April 1982, took delivery of the first B747-200, powered with Rolls Royce RB211 engines. The European, Australian and East Asia operations were expanded.
After months of careful evaluation, MAS decided to offer 30% of its equity to the public. This was done in late September 1985 after an initial bonus issue of three for one was made. Subsequently, the RM1.00/share was offered RM1.80. It was then the largest share issue made in Malaysian corporate history and the first wholly-owned Government entity to do so. The public issue received overwhelming support and upon listing, shares shot up above RM5.00, despite that the PE ratio was only 5.9, way below the average 20 for companies then traded on the KLSE. That brought the shareholders’ fund to RM 572 million.
In 1986, the only B747-300 with GE engines was delivered and MAS operations expanded to Los Angeles. More European destinations such as Paris and Amsterdam were added.
By 1989, the first delivery of ultra-long-range 17 B747-400s were delivered and by now Malaysia Airlines is flying direct to its European sector, by-passing the traditional West Asian technical stopovers such as Dubaii and Kuwait. With introduction of this ultra-long-range type, in the nineties Malaysia Airlines started service to South Africa (Johannesburg and Cape Town), Central America (Mexico City) and South America (Buenos Aries).
Malaysia Airlines added A330-200/300 into its fleet in the mid eighties and saw its services being extended to Africa (Cairo), Canada (Vancouver) and expanded operations to West Asia (Beirut and Instanbul), South East and South Asia (Karachi), East Asia (Shenzhen, Fukuoka) and Australia (Adelaide).
In 1997, Malaysia Airlines took delivery of its first B777-200 Super Ranger and its regional and European operations were substantiated with this ultra long range and economical jetliner. In the late nineties, Malaysia Airlines introduce a flight to New York (Newark), via Vienna (later Stockholm). This mark the service to the American Eastern Seaboard.
In 2004, Malaysia Airlines signed the agreement to purchase the largest ultra long range commercial airliner A380-800, with the powerful Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines.
MAS Engineering Division started training their own in-house Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (LAMEs) with the first admission of Trainee Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (TAMEs) at Subang in 1972. Today, Malaysia Airliness 600 odd LAMEs are certified by OEM such as Airbus, Boeing, Rolls Royce, GE, Pratt & Whitney, CFM, Honeywell etc to service components from its 98 aircraft fleet, in two engineering centres, Subang and KLIA. Malaysia Airlines engineering and ground services divisions moved to KLIA when the new airport was completed and started operations in June 1998.
Through out the years, bit by bit, the FlightOperationsTraining School acquired flight simulators of all type of aircrafts it operates. Airlines made world record when its technical crew, led by Captain Nik Huzlan flew a 20 ½hour journey on its B777-200 Super Ranger from Seattle to Subang.
Malaysian Airlines have perfected the art and service standards, especially on board. It is a tradition and dedication passed on from the MAS days. The heart melting smiles that is usually followed by warm but efficient service which had won Malaysia Airlines over 100 international awards.
Malaysia Airlines ventured into the lucrative trade of air cargo. Now it is a major and profitable revenue stream for the public listed national carrier. It is now a subsidiary called MASKargo.
Today, Malaysia Airlines have matured and served the Malaysian public well. Be it the needs of people in the rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak and business and international relations need of the country, the national flag carrier had always been there, flying the Jalur Gemilang, Going Beyond Expectations.
Whenever we are abroad and we step onboard a Malaysia Airlines jet, the warmth of our lovely country is immediately felt. It feels a lot like home, it even smells a lot like home. The warm smiles of “Selamat Datang” is so soothing. One is so comfortable with the service standards and cuisine that one is so accustomed to.
Happy Birthday, Malaysia Airlines
*Photos are from airliners.net