Why I'll still fly Malaysia Airlines, despite the loss of MH370

Why I'll still fly Malaysia Airlines, despite the loss of MH370

OPINION | It's now been 12 days since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished from the skies.

They've been days of fear and frustration for the loved ones of the plane's 12 crew and 227 passengers, and days of drama for the rest of the world.

26 countries are now taking part in the search for the downed Boeing 777-200 jet, while some three million Internet users pore over recent satellite photos covering over 24,000 square kilometres.

They have also been seemingly never-ending days of speculation – from informed opinions to wild rumour – and at the worst of times, days of embarrassment for Malaysian authorities and the country's own government.

All this has driven MH370 into the public consciousness in ways nobody could ever have imagined, and certainly not if the plane had been located the day after it disappeared.

Australian Business Traveller chose not to report on MH370, for reasons we've explained here. But over these past 12 days I've constantly been asked – by colleagues, family, friends – if I would fly on Malaysia Airlines, or even if I'd fly on a Boeing 777.

It's the same question I was asked after Qantas' flight QF32, an Airbus A380, suffered a nearly catastrophic engine explosion in November 2010 en route from Singapore to Sydney.

It's the same question as when every one of Boeing's 787 Dreamliners was grounded for over three months between January and April 2013 following a series of critical overheating problems with the plane's battery system.

In both of those cases, and this one, my answer is 'yes'. An unstinting, unhesitant 'yes'.

I've flown on Qantas Airbus A380s over a dozen times in the years since QF32, and on several Boeing 787s as well – and I have no qualms about boarding either in the future.

While Malaysia Airlines doesn't enjoy Qantas' unblemished record of not a single fatality in the modern jet age, MAS' most recent fatality was 1995 involving a tiny Fokker 50, and before that a hijacked Boeing 737 in 1977.

Those are different times and circumstances to MH370. I've flown with Malaysia Airlines a half-dozen times to date and have no pause about booking another flight with them.

As for the Boeing 777: this is one of Boeing's most successful jets, with an estimated 1,200 'triple sevens' flown by some 55 airlines around the world.

It's suffered only one 'hull loss' (an accident which damages an aircraft beyond repair) with fatalities, that being the July 2013 crash of an Asiana Airlines 777 at San Francisco, which was the result of pilot error rather than any issue with the aircraft itself.

I'm not somebody who worries about flying. If that was the case, I'd have chosen another career.

And to date, I've never had reason to question my chances of arriving safely at the other end of the journey.

The sad tale of MH370 won't fully be known until the plane is located, its 'black box' flight recorder retrieved (if possible) and all the pieces of this puzzle are painstakingly put together.

Even then, some questions and a degree of doubt may remain for years to come.

But for now, when asked if I'd fly again on Malaysia Airlines and especially an MAS Boeing 777, I'm confident in both the airline and the aircraft. Book me a ticket and I'll fly out tomorrow.

What's your take? Has the MH370 incident changed how you feeling about flying with Malaysia Airlines?

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David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

30 comments

  • RK

    Ryan K

    20 Mar, 2014 10:02 am

    My first overseas trip was on Malaysian Airlines, back in 2004. This trip involved two Boeing 777-200's and a two Boeing 747-400 flights. The aircraft were great, the service was great and I'd have no qualms whatsoever about flying this great airline again. What has happened to MH370 is a horrifying mystery, however I'm not letting this get in the way of Malaysia's previous safety or service record.

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  • Hugo

    Hugo

    20 Mar, 2014 01:46 pm

    My first overseas trip that I can remember, and indeed my first trip on an aeroplane I can remember, was also a Malaysian Airlines flight, when I was six.

    Haven't actually flown them since.

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  • dutheflyer

    dutheflyer

    20 Mar, 2014 10:26 am

    David, I was in the same position as you. I flewback  from HKG to MEL via KUL by MAS on 12/3, just days after the MH370 incident. Coincidentally, my MH073 HKG/KUL & MH149 KUL/MEL (should be on the MH147 A330 but cancelled when I arrived KUL) were 777-200. My family worried after the MH370 incident but what I told them is that "it is even more difficult to hit 2 Lotto first prizes in the same week than having an aircraft lost by the same modern full-service/LCC airlines within the same period." In terms of possibilitis, more air travel & traffice means a higher chance of airliner incident but at the same time air travel, in terms of personal risk level, is still the safest mean of transport at all. If we accept the improvement of Garuda being one of the safest airlines in the last few years & forget its dark days, we should also have more confidence on all high reputation airlines, including QF & MAS.

    Anyway, except the angled lie flat seat MAS's services is a lot better than Alan's toys & MAS's pricing scheme is always very competitive. My J class (actual booking class is Z) HKG/MEL/HKG ticket costs me .... um .... ~AUD$1900 at discount rate (normal rate ~AUD$2900).

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  • fxdxdy

    fxdxdy

    20 Mar, 2014 11:10 am

    Yeh, they really need to improve those angled seats.

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  • Chrisor

    Chrisor

    20 Mar, 2014 11:51 am

    Flying is still the safest form of transport, I agree, my wife is a bad flyer and to put her mind at ease I remind her that at any one time in the world there is around 20,000 aircraft flying. That still doesn't stop the fingernails into my leg at takeoff though!   

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    20 Mar, 2014 10:46 am

    David,

    I share your sentiments but with one qualification. When I choose to fly with MH and if the proverbial shit hits the fan, I will prime myself not to expect matters to be dealt with in an expedited and efficient manner. Systems, processes and the ability for successful implementation and execution is something, in my opinion, Malaysia and it's associated government linked companies find challenging. How does one deal with unplanned/unscripted events? I believe it is part of their development into a mature economy. 

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  • fxdxdy

    fxdxdy

    20 Mar, 2014 11:01 am

    Many people's thinking is the safest time to fly with an airline is in the period following an accident since there is the impression that the airline will be taking extra care and be under extra scrutiny.
    I'm not sure if that is true but I couldn't help but get the sense that when I was watching a MAS A330 take off from Melbourne a few days a go that every radar between here and KL was going to be watching it every inch of the way home.

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  • Broderick Boyd

    brobro

    20 Mar, 2014 11:06 am

    Im feeling  more at ease after reading this artical. I have a flight with MAS on an A380 KUL-LHR coming up and am a bit nervous, but then I flew VH-OQA LAX -SYD recently therefore shouldnt be too worried. As per usual, great read from AUSBT!

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  • Mal

    Mal

    20 Mar, 2014 11:22 am

    Thanks for sharing this thoughtful and non-sensationalist article.

    I agree, although on a confidence scale I would rate my confidence in the airplane higher than the airline. In other words, 10/10 for the Boeing 777 but maybe 8/10 or 9/10 for MAS.

    The reason I won't rate MAS as 10/10 is not because I am concerned over my safety with them but if something serious does happen I do not have the confidence that MAS will handle it in a professional manner, not after what we have seen with MH370. This is their biggest failing I think. It's not the safety of the airline, or the service, but how they react in a time of crisis like MH370, how open and transparent they are, how efficient they are in dealing with everything.

    From what we have seen so far in the Malaysian Govt's dealings with the media and the families of the MH370 passengers they have a long way to go to be 'world class' although this is more a reflection on the country than the airline itself.

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  • driley28

    driley28

    20 Mar, 2014 11:27 am

    I would have no issue flying MH.

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  • Craig Dennington

    cdinoz

    20 Mar, 2014 11:54 am

    David,

    I note that the low J special fares are back with MAS. 

    I have a couple of trips to London coming up later this year, and have been monitoring prices (my company will pay QF PE seats for me only....) but MAS now are offering J seats ex SYD for under $3k to London and just over $3k on the way back. 

    All in all, about $200 less than QF PE seats!

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  • woganfan

    woganfan

    20 Mar, 2014 12:07 pm

    Any airline in one of the big airline alliances I'm sure have to meet many criteria for acceptance and safety will be up there at the top. Many of the airlines who aren't even in the alliances also meet or exceed normal safety procedures.  Malaysia have an enviable record.

    Whatever has happened to Malaysia Airlines flight, there will no doubt be enquiries and investigations and there will be changes.  I feel for the families of those missing but there will be some good come out of this.  There will be further improvements in safety and procedures no doubt, further checks of aircraft if the loss of the aircraft was due to its age or condition.

    Not that I want to trivialise the pain and anguish of those who have loved ones on that aircraft, we as a travelling public need to remember that that the airlines are businesses and their reputations can be severely damaged by poor safety and security.  It is in their best interests to be at the peak of their performance at all times. I have not flown Malaysia Airlines, tonight I am on a B777 from SYD to BKK QF/EK. I would fly Malaysia, I will continue to have faith in the airliners and the organisations that operate them.

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  • Ozkid

    Ozkid

    20 Mar, 2014 12:50 pm

    Agree very balanced article. 

    I echo the sentiments of some above: technically and from an engineering perspective I have no problems with trust in the plane or the company.

    However the incident has raised very serious questions about the state of the political and social systems in place in the country Malaysia. From passport control, unscreened cargo yet still allowed to be loaded, not upgrading swift to allow continuous monitoring of the plane (not mandatory in SE Asia, but a lowering of safety systems) to save $, upper political class is based on the bumiputra system and not based on merit, which may have led to poor crisis/public relations management, contradictory messages by different spokespeople, Malaysian air defence noting an unidentified plane but not challenged or intercepted...

    I don't think it's an economic issue of the country modernising to be a developed country - it's a cultural issue that this sad event has exposed. Malaysians are a very proud people, proud of how they country has progressed. Hopefully some good will come out of this and measures taken for introspection and change.

    Fly MH? Qualified yes.

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    20 Mar, 2014 01:39 pm

    Agreed Ozkid,

    Their unique social set up leaves much to be desired (Is there anywhere else on earth where affirmative action is targeted to a majority? Fiji?)

    Their cultural sensitivities inhibits the evolution of society along meritocratic lines, which in turn restrains their economic development.

    The loss of Malaysian human capital to Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom is an example.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    20 Mar, 2014 03:29 pm

    The level of government incompetence (and derivative profiteering) in Malaysia is truly staggering.

    Just one metric - what could take ten minutes at the Bondi Junction RTA can take an entire working day (eight hours of mandatory intravenous drip of teh tarik) at the Immigration office in Menara Dato' Onn.

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  • Ozkid

    Ozkid

    20 Mar, 2014 04:20 pm

    And it is a worry that there are many barriers against the current social and cultural system. Too many people who want to maintain their positions or alternatively shift blame. When I ask my close Malaysian friends they think it's unlikely anything will change or hard lessons taken on board for aviation safety. :(

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  • Merc25

    Merc25

    20 Mar, 2014 01:58 pm

    i would have no issues flying Malaysian Airlines.have done so before and will do so again.

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  • abudhabi1

    abudhabi1

    25 Mar, 2014 09:13 pm

    They are a great airline.I know it's unfortunate what has happened but I have great confidence people will return and fly them again.i flew them to Vietnam not so long ago and no problems.

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  • Al Glidden

    AlG

    20 Mar, 2014 04:45 pm

    Agree, no worries about flying with MH. But is it 'too soon' to hope they have loads of low-cost business and first class seats empty due to lack of confidence among the general public so we end up with some great sale fares? Not sure how MH would go about advertising those sales though, now that would look suss!

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  • Serg

    Serg

    20 Mar, 2014 05:07 pm

    I never flown MH, but would do if their offer will suit me. 777? Leave me alone! The safest aircraft to date. Aircraft deliberately was put off course, so it could be any aircraft. So when people asking about MH it MAY have SOME merits, but 777? It is just ridiculous.

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  • tronek

    tronek

    20 Mar, 2014 10:50 pm

    Great story David.

    The aviation industry tends to pull through these disasters even stronger, so rather than fearing the 777 or Malaysian Airlines or even flying in general, it is often the case that once the root cause is identified, measures will be put in place to make some or all of the above even safer in future.

    Also, may I make a correction. The 777-200 has had two hull losses, the Asiana flight as you mentioned, and BA38 at Heathrow in 2008, caused by ice build up in the fuel-oil heat exchangers. As an example of the above, this incident has made 777s with RR engines safer thanks to modifications to the heat exchangers.

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  • tronek

    tronek

    20 Mar, 2014 10:52 pm

    Just saw "... with fatalities" and of course BA38 had none. My mistake, no correction needed.

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  • dragonfly

    dragonfly

    21 Mar, 2014 08:51 am

    Flying MAS on J next month...very much looking forward to it.

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  • Kate333

    Kate333

    21 Mar, 2014 03:13 pm

    I have flown Malaysian Airlines many times. I have always been impressed by their service and their safety.  As an Australian based Malaysian Airlines Frequent Flyer I will continue to use their service. 

    Whatever happened to MH370 is still a mystery but I think we will discover the Captain & crew are heroes. Great airline, great employees. 

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  • Nicolas

    perth2darwin

    21 Mar, 2014 04:43 pm

    Well living in Perth they are the only Oneworld carrier providing servcies to our neighbours in SE Asia and beyond, if you want use QF points its the only real way to go. I have used MH a fair bit recently and I do enjoy them. While they do lack some refinments at the back of the plane, in J they are brilliant and will continue to use them in the future!

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  • Ewan K

    Ewan K

    21 Mar, 2014 09:55 pm

    Why do so many people talk about Malaysian Airlines. It's Malaysia Airlines. That's what is written on the sides of the planes in very large letters, don't they read?

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  • chewkc65

    chewkc65

    22 Mar, 2014 02:07 pm

    Yes, agreed.  Air accidents or mishaps are not frequent occurences like road accidents.  Therefore, they create big news when it does happens and hence the perception of air travel being dangerous.  But look at how many people die on the road every day or even every hour.  Nobody gives a damn and continue to drive wrecklessly.

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  • Flying Fish

    AWA2602

    23 Mar, 2014 10:05 am

    I feel much safer catch a flight across the world than walking across a city street. Flying keeps getting safer. MH is a great airline, excellent service, quality product and respectable safety record, I'd be delighted to fly with them. MH370 has done nothing to change my view of air travel or MH.

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  • Azizi Khan

    azizikhan

    26 Mar, 2014 12:39 pm

    I have flown MAS for years and I will continue to do so. They are really one of the best airlines in Asia and definitely miles ahead of Qantas IMHO. Contrary to popular belief MAS had nothing to do with Malaysian Government even though its the national carrier. MAS staff are extremely professional and KLIA is one of the biggest airports in Asia.

    It is actually quite unfair to compare AU airports because our airports are tiny in comparison and thus far easier to manage. 

    Coming back to MH370, it is a tragedy. And the government handled it best they could. What happened is unprecended in Asian airline history and the closest incident was the Air France many years ago. Thus you can't really say we could have handled it any better than them. 

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  • muhamad farhan muhammad

    irfan91

    8 Apr, 2014 08:13 pm

    malaysian airlines its best airlines holding are safety and good service record

    this is incident unexpected hapens

    for me im still  believe to fying with MH!

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