Malaysian Ministry denies new MH370 search attempt

The Malaysian Ministry of Transport has denied agreeing to a new search mission for the missing wreckage of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. There have been two official search missions to find the airplane, missing since 2014. The latest effort, carried out by a private company, ended in 2018.

The Malaysian Ministry of Transport states has not made any decision to relaunch a new search mission for the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777. In a written statement, dated February 10, 2020, the authority refuted claims allegedly made by news report that states otherwise.

“While the Ministry of Transport deeply empathizes with the family members of the victims and stands by them, the Ministry has not made any decision to relaunch any new searches as there has not been any new credible evidence to initiate such a process,” the statement reads.

The Malaysian authority also states it would review any new evidence if it officially received it. However, the decision to re-launch the search for MH370 would require consultation with China and Australia.

Malaysia Airlines: A history of ups and downs

Malaysia Airlines Berhad, colloquially known as Malaysia Airlines, is Malaysia’s flag carrier. The airline has been struggling for the past few years following several incidents involving one missing flight (MH370) and another being shot down over eastern Ukraine (MH17). Now, Malaysia Airlines - wholly owned by Khazanah Nasional Berhad, a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund company – is considering selling its shares in a bid to recover from unprofitability.

On 20 January 2020, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad confirmed that Malaysia Airlines had received five proposals. Sources say that the proposals were submitted by AirAsia, Malindo Air, Lion Air, Air France-KLM alliance and Japan Airlines. As the discussion for the proposal is confidential, the details were not revealed to the public.

The question now is whether this bid is a good move? Tracing back Malaysia Airlines’ history and past struggles might answer this question.  

Malaysia Airlines was founded in Singapore on 12 October, 1937 as Malayan Airways Limited. The first commercial flight was only boarded in 1947, some 10 years later. When the Federation of Malaysia was established in 1963, the airline’s name changed to Malaysian Airways. Then, following Singapore’s separation from Malaysia in 1965, the airline’s name was changed again to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines before the airline ceased operations after six years in 1972 when both, Malaysia and Singapore decided to establish their own flag carriers – Malaysian Airline System (MAS) and Singapore Airlines.

During the 1980s, the economic boom in Malaysia helped MAS grow, and by the end of the decade MAS became the first airline in Southeast Asia to serve intercontinental flights to South America.

However, during the Asian Financial Crisis, just like other companies in Asia, MAS suffered losses against its financial year for about five years. One of the damage control efforts was to discontinue unprofitable routes out of Malaysia. In 2003, MAS recovered from its losses and achieved some profit before 2005 where it suffered another period of unprofitability due to rising fuel prices, escalated handling and landing fees, and other factors.

Idris Jala was appointed as the new CEO of MAS and launched its Business Turnaround Plan in 2006. MAS posted a record profit in 2007 ending a series of losses since 2005. Route rationalising was one of the major contributors other than improving MAS’ operation system.

In 2011, MAS recorded a net loss of RM2.52 billion (US$613 million) - the largest ever recorded in the company’s history - due to rising fuel costs. Idris Jala departed from MAS in 2009 to accept a position in the country’s Cabinet. The new CEO, Tengku Azmil Zahruddin took over the reins thereafter before newly-appointed CEO, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, was appointed in 2011. Again, the first initiative was to discontinue the unprofitable routes. MAS then recorded profits in 2013 and became a member of the Oneworld Alliance, a leading global airline alliance.

In 2014, MAS struggled to compete with AirAsia, the now-famous Malaysian low-cost carrier. Then, the mysterious flight disappearance of MH370 in March 2014 added to its financial struggles. People started developing doubts about flying with the country’s flag carrier. 

The search for the missing plane has become one of the costliest endeavours in aviation history, centred around the South China and Andaman seas initially before shifting to the Indian Ocean. As a result, MAS’ stock went down as much as 20 percent following the disappearance of MH370 and fell 80 percent over the previous five years. 

Three months after the tragic MH370 incident, another Malaysia Airlines flight, MH17, was shot down while flying over Eastern Ukraine. The incident has become widely publicised because of the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine between Russia and the Ukraine. These two incidents have greatly contributed to MAS’ financial year losses.

On the proposed recovery plan, Khazanah Nasional Berhad - then the majority shareholder of MAS - announced that it would buy the shares of minority shareholders. MAS will compensate shareholders with premium closing price shares as part of Khazanah’s plan to restructure and rebrand MAS.

On 29 August 2014, Khazanah issued a report on the recovery plan that included cutting off 6,000 staff and focusing on regional destinations rather than long-haul routes. In 2015, MAS rebranded its name to Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) and appointed a new CEO, Christoph Mueller. 

In less than a year, Christoph resigned from the post, citing changing personal circumstances as the reason. It was announced in 2016 that the new CEO, Peter Bellew would take over. He too decided to resign a year later. Currently, Captain Izham Ismail, a former Malaysia Airlines pilot is the new CEO of MAB. 

Following the numerous CEO changes and to recover profitability – Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the parent company of MAB spearheaded by the government of Malaysia – has come up with an idea to offer the company’s shares to airline companies who can propose a strategic plan en route to profitability.

With little details available to the public, several major newspapers in Malaysia have speculated that the Malaysian government and Khazanah are leaning towards selecting the AirAsia Group for this plan. The AirAsia Group has proposed to take over the shares offered by Khazanah and for AirAsia X Berhad to merge with Malaysia Airlines, potentially making the merged company a Malaysian/ASEAN champion competitor. 

Proposals have been submitted by foreign carriers as well. The Air France-KLM alliance has proposed to take a 49 percent stake while Japan Airlines wants a 25 percent stake in Khazanah. This is not a surprise as the relationship between Malaysia and Japan has been improving following the samurai bond issuance by Japan in 2019. Things may not be so smooth with an Air France-KLM alliance though, as both parties belong to different airline alliances: Oneworld for Malaysia Airlines and Skyteam for Air France-KLM.

The bids are still being reviewed and Malaysia needs to carefully consider the proposals made. As Malaysia Airlines is the flag carrier of Malaysia and a national symbol, the decision made by Malaysia will be crucial in deciding the future of the aviation industry in the country.

Wahab Jumrah

Five proposals received for ailing Malaysia Airlines: Mahathir

Malaysia has received five proposals for its debt-laden national carrier Malaysia Airlines, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed said at a group media briefing on Monday (Jan 20).

“There are about 5 proposals but of course some of them are just no go,” Dr Mahathir said, without giving more details.

“We need to listen to everybody to find out what is the best solution.”

The Malaysian government has been seeking a strategic partner for the financially struggling airline, which is still recovering from two tragedies in 2014, when flight MH370 disappeared in what remains a mystery and flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

Taken private by sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional in 2014, the national carrier has been struggling to post a profit.

How MH370 and MH17 changed the way we think about air travel

Thirty-three Australians were tragically killed in two air disasters which shrouded 2014 and the years which have followed in sadness, anger and frustration.

Both incidents, which left a total of 537 passengers dead, forever seared the flight code of Malaysia Airlines into the consciousness of Australians.

What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, or MH370, remains perhaps the greatest mystery of aviation and the subject of intense speculation.

Of the 227 passengers, six were Australians. On the morning of March 8, they boarded the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and expected to step off in Beijing, China. The plane never arrived, and the search for the missing jet became the most costly in aviation history. The most likely scenario involved someone in the cockpit of Flight 370, probably Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, re-programming the aircraft's autopilot to travel south across the Indian Ocean.

The downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17, just four months later, appeared far more clear cut. All 283 passengers and 15 crew were killed, including 27 Australians.

A total of 33 Australians were needlessly killed in two air disasters in quick succession.

In the MH17 disaster, the lives of Perth parents Anthony Maslin and Marite "Rin" Norris were ripped apart in the most devastating way.

They lost their three children – Mo, 12, Evie, 10 and Otis, 8 – and Ms Norris' father, Anthony, when the jet was shot down. Their three children had been returning home to Perth for school, while they had stayed behind in Amsterdam.

Why it matters?

A nation of great travellers, Australians want to feel safe as we journey abroad. But there were also broader implications in both stories.

MH17 threw the spotlight on Moscow's intervention in the Ukraine and its likely hand in the disaster, despite denials.

What happened in the cockpit of MH370 continues to intrigue. A picture began to emerge of Captain Zaharie's mental health. Had Malaysia Airlines done enough not only to support a troubled pilot, but also spot the warning signs of an employee struggling with mental illness?

Malaysia Airlines came under intense pressure over its investigation. The carrier and Malaysian government were accused by families of MH370 victims of obscuring the truth. When disasters strike, people need and expect clarity from leaders and those in power.

What has changed?

Family members of victims are pushing for international law changes which will oblige countries embroiled in civil wars to close their airspace.

In the modern age, it was unthinkable a plane like MH370 could simply disappear. In 2016, a new aviation standard meant all aircraft over open ocean report their position every 15 minutes. The 30-day battery life of a plane's underwater locator beacons has also been increased to 90 days, beginning 2020.

Hit with two devastating disasters, Malaysia Airlines renationalized on 1 September 2015, in an attempt to avoid financial uncertainty. Meanwhile, families of the victims of MH370 and MH17 are still fighting for compensation in civil suits.

Flight MH370 mystery may never be solved

Flight MH370 mystery may never be solved 'because of crucial lost 18 minutes'

The Malaysian Airlines jet, which was carrying 239 passengers from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared from radar just seconds after entered into Vietnamese airspace.

The mystery of doomed Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 may never be solved as it lost contact with air traffic controllers during a crucial 18 minute window, according to reports.

Crucially, this was missed by ground crew in Malaysia who had a busy schedule at the time the jet vanished.

When the team in Kuala Lumpur finally noticed the Boeing 777's disappearance, they presumed it had been taken over by air traffic controllers in Ho Chi Minh, the Atlantic reports.

The Vietnamese team had noticed the jet on their monitors and then saw it vanish - but crucially - it is believed they failed to report the issue to their Malaysian counterparts.

A full 18 minutes passed before ground crew in Kuala Lumpur became aware one of their jets had vanished.

The Malaysian Aviation Safety Network (ASN) is certain that the aircraft was captured mid-flight.

Evidence is mounting that the crash, which has become of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time, was a murder-suicide.

New flight data suggests "some abnormal turns [were] made by the 777 [that] can only be done manually."

French investigators claim captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was a troubled, lonely man who deliberately killed all passengers and crew on board the flight.

But it will take around "a year" to go through all of the information received from Boeing, sources said in July.

A source, who is 'close to the investigation' said: "Some abnormal turns made by the 777 can only be done manually. So someone was at the helm.

"But nothing is credited that anyone else could have entered the cockpit."

The informant told Le Parisien the new development amid France's judicial inquiry into the crash. It is the only country to conduct one as of yet.

Data analysis indicates the Boeing 777-200ER flew over the Indian Ocean until it ran out of fuel and violently slammed into the water with 239 people on board.

It is suspected the plane's passenger cabin was deliberately depressurised by Shah to kill everyone on board hours before the crash.

Before doing so, he could have put on an oxygen mask in the cockpit so he could continue to fly the aircraft for hours.

At around the same time the cabin was depressurised the electrical system was deliberately turned off, making the plane impossible to track by satellite.

An FBI inspection of Shah's Microsoft flight simulator at home showed he had tested a flight roughly matching the path of MH370, ending in the Indian Ocean after running out of fuel.

His voice was heard in the final radio communication less than two minutes before the plane began to divert from its flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.

One of his lifelong friends told the Atlantic that he had reluctantly come to the conclusion that Shah deliberately crashed the plane, given the evidence amassed by independent investigators.

The friend, who wasn't named, said: “It’s hard to reconcile with the man I knew. But it’s the necessary conclusion.”

The friend said Shah likely tricked his inexperienced 27-year-old co-pilot, Fariq Hamid, who was on his final training flight, into leaving the cockpit and locked him out.

He said: “Zaharie was an examiner. All he had to say was ‘Go check something in the cabin', and the guy would have been gone.”

Shah's friend doesn't know why the pilot would do such a thing, but thought it might be down to the captain's emotional state.

He added: “Zaharie’s marriage was bad. In the past he slept with some of the flight attendants. And so what? We all do. You’re flying all over the world with these beautiful girls in the back. But his wife knew.”

People who spoke to the Atlantic described Shah, the father of adult children, as lonely and sad.

By David Coleman

MH370: TV drama that relives fate of Malaysia Airlines passengers is launched

The mini-series has been ordered by France Televisions and will tell the story of how the Boeing 777-200 vanished on a flight from Kulala Lumpur to Beijing in March, 2014.

A TV drama mini-series reliving the tragedy of missing flight MH370 has been confirmed.

Banijay Rights has secured rights to Flight MH370 and France Televisions will work on the English-speaking show.

It is based on the novel, A Life Diverted, by Ghyslain Wattrelos, who lost his wife and two of his three children on the Malaysia Airlines plane, and French journalist Florence de Changy.

The series will be based on perspectives of families, journalists, scientists, pilots and politicians who were all left baffled after the Boeing 777-200 vanished on a journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March, 2014.

Aviation expert: MH370 was brought down by highly qualified person

A British aviation expert says missing MH370 was taken out of the sky by a "highly qualified" person who had advanced flight skills.

Independent experts believe that the Malaysia Airlines plane was taken off course and deliberately crashed into the remote sea by its captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

One recent report claimed the captain was depressed and had locked his co-pilot out of the cockpit before taking the plane on a suicide mission that killed all 239 people on board.

David Learmount, a British pilot and aviation commentator, said only a person with a lot of training and an intimate knowledge of that type of plane could seize control of the aircraft.

Mr Learmount, consulting editor at FlightGlobal said: “It was a highly qualified human being, well-trained in the workings of the 777 who did this.”

The person behind the controls when the plane was turned around would have known about dead zones in air traffic control, he added.

The plane is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean after it was taken off course during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014.

The plane flew for hours before it ended up in the sea.