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An Overview of the Aviation Industry in Malaysia


This overview provides a brief insight into the background and current developments in the aviation industry in Malaysia. In the 2014 National Budget, the Government has endorsed that a new National Aviation Policy will be adopted soon.[1]


Scheduled air passenger and mail services in Malaya commenced in 1937, when Wearne's Air Service (WAS) began operating services between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. The first flight, using an 8-seater de Havilland D.H.89A Dragon Rapide took place on 28 June 1937.[2] This inaugural flight departed Singapore from the then brand-new Kallang Airport which had opened earlier in the same month on 12 June.[3] Next to arrive on the scene was Malayan Airways Limited (MAL) incorporated in Singapore on 12 October 1937, an initiative of the Ocean Steamship Company of Liverpool, in partnership with the Straits Steamship Company[4] [5] and Imperial Airways. The airline’s inaugural flight on the “Raja Udang,”[6] with only five passengers was a charter from Kallang Airport in Singapore to Sungei Besi Airport in Kuala Lumpur, on 2 April 1947, using an Airspeed Consul twin-engined aircraft. Weekly scheduled flights then followed from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Penang from 1 May 1947 with the same aircraft type. Its services expanded in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1960, the airline launched its first long-haul international flight, to Hong Kong and thereafter several new routes were added. The airlines has had a series of name change, for example, in 1963, the airline’s name was changed, from “Malayan Airways” to “Malaysian Airlines” and then when Singapore joined the Federation of Malaya to Malaysia-Singapore

Singapore Airlines - Our History accessed 22 March 2014.

Airlines. It also took over Borneo Airways. In 1966, following Singapore’s separation from the Federation, the airline’s name was changed again to Malaysia Airlines System and Singapore Airlines (SIA).[7] By 1987, it was called Malaysia Airlines, from its original name of Malaysian Airways in 1947.[8] The technical Regulatory Authority[9] is the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA),[10] Ministry of Transport Malaysia. Air Services are generally divided into Scheduled and Non-scheduled Services. The DCA processes applications to obtain an Air Service License (ASL) and Air Operators Certificate (AOC) to provide scheduled air services. As of 2012, Malaysia has bilateral Air Services Agreement with 100 countries.[11] As a country that sits on the International Civil Aviation Organization - ICAO, Malaysia has ratified several International Conventions as follows:





Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air



Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention)



Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of Specialized Agencies



Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft



Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft (Hague Convention 1970)



Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (Montreal Convention 1971)



Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment (Cape Town Convention 2001)


The Acts and Regulations in force in Malaysia that regulate all matters relating to aviation and the usage of mobile equipment (aircraft) are as follows:

  • • Civil Aviation Act 1969 [Act 3]
  • • Carriage By Air Act 1974 [Act 148]
  • • Aviation Offences Act 1984 [Act 307]
  • • Airport and Aviation Services Act (Operating Company) 1991 [Act 467]
  • • International Interest Act in Mobile Equipment (Aircraft) 2006 [Act 659]
  • • Civil Aviation Regulations 1996

In Malaysia, aviation operators consist of two distinct groups of companies, namely:

  • (a) The companies that are responsible to develop, manage and operate the airport terminals such as Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, a government-linked entity (MAHB)[12] which after corporate re-structuring in November 2014 is called Malaysia Airports Berhad (MAB) and Senai Airport Terminal Services (SATS), a privately-owned company.[13]
  • (b) The companies which operate the air services are; Firefly,[14] MAS Wings,[15] AirAsia,[16] Air Asia X,[16] Berjaya Air,[18] Transmile, and Malindo.[19]

Malaysia Airports operates 40 airports in Malaysia including the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) hub airport while the Senai Airport Terminal Services Sdn. Bhd. operates the Johor Baru airport. The KLIA airport included the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) which is now replaced by the KLIA2[20]with a capacity of 45 million ppa. Following the KLIA, the next largest airports in passengers handled are Penang, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching each handling over one mppa over a similar period.

Comparison between KLIA, LCCT, and KLIA2




Capacity (passengers per year)

25 million

15 million

45 million

Terminal size (sqm)




Retail space (sqm)



32,000 (estimated)

Car park (lots)

  • 6208 (covered lots)
  • 5509 (uncovered lots)

3000 (uncovered lots)


Cost (RM billion)

About 10.0

0.3 (terminal cost only)

3.6-3.9 (latest estimate)

Runway access

Runway 1 and 2 at KLIA

Runway 1 and 2 at KLIA

4 km runway with a 2.2 km separation from Runway 2

Passenger comfort (capacity/floor space)

52 pax per sqm

234 pax per sqm

124 pax per sqm


Malaysia Airlines once operated 118 domestic routes within Malaysia and 114 international routes across the continents. Its glorious past routes have come under scrutiny and reconsideration in Business Turn Around Plans for reasons of profitability. Air Asia has been expanding in route coverage and fleet size.[21]

  • [1] Business News, Budget 2014: Logistics sector to be improved, aviation hub role e yed,, 28 November 2014.
  • [2] Mail takes flight. Singapore Philatelic Museum accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [3] Flight into fantasy, ALPAS Singapore accessed 22March 2014.
  • [4] Straits Steamship Company. accessed22 March 2014.
  • [5] Flight into Fantasy. ALPAS Singapore accessed22 March 2014.
  • [6] 7
  • [7] Malaysia Airlines - Our Story. accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [8] accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [9] Aviation Department, Ministry of Transport accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [10] Department of Civil Aviation accessed22 March 2014.
  • [11] uAir Services Agreement. Ministry of Transport accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [12] accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [13] accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [14] accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [15] accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [16] accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [17] accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [18] accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [19] accessed 22 March 2014.
  • [20] KLIA2 Malaysia’s Next Generation Hub accessed 22 March2014.
  • [21] March 2014; Malaysia Airlines - Our Story accessed 22 March 2014; Singapore Philatelic Museum SPM “Mail TakesFlight” accessed 22 March 2014; Straits Steamship Company Airline Pilots Association of Singapore ALPAS “Flight intoFantasy” accessed 22 March 2014; Ministry ofTransport, Malaysia Aviation Division 22 March 2014; Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad and Senai Airport Terminal ServicesSendirian Berhad 2013 Unpublished Paper; KLIA2 Malaysia’s Next Generation Hub accessed 22 March2014; Malaysia Airlines - Business Turnaround Plan 2011 accessed 22 March 2014; Malaysia Airlines Fleet accessed 22 March 2014; Air Asia Annual Report 2012;Cape Town Convention 2001
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