Malaysia Airlines loss rises 59 percent

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia Airlines said its net loss expanded 59 percent in the first quarter, hit by loss of revenue from China after the disappearance of Flight 370 two months ago.

The flag carrier said Thursday its net loss surged to 443.4 million ringgit ($137.8 million), up from 278.8 million ringgit in the January-to-March period last year. Revenue however, still rose 1.7 percent to 3.6 billion ringgit ($1.1 billion).

It was the fifth quarterly loss for the carrier, and Malaysia Airlines said the Flight 370 mystery stressed a company that was already struggling with high fuel prices and operational costs.

Sales from China fell 60 percent in March, with a high number of cancellations and a decline in long-haul travel, it said.

Flight 370 went missing March 8 with 239 people on board while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing; about two-thirds of the passengers were Chinese.

The crisis surrounding the lost plane has put Malaysia Airlines in a tough financial position and will definitely thwart its plan to return to profit this year.

Last year, the airline’s losses ballooned to 1.17 billion ringgit ($363 million), nearly three times larger than the 433 million ringgit loss in 2012.

Malaysia Airlines said it will review its business models and plans to ensure they are sustainable.

Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Thursday that the government has no plans to provide any financial assistance to bail out Malaysia Airlines.

He also said Malaysia’s Cabinet endorsed the plans made with China and Australia earlier to shift to a deep-sea phase in the search for the plane, believed to be in the remote Indian Ocean west of Australia.

The first step being taken is to reanalyze the data accumulated so far to identify a more accurate search area. Then the seabed in the refined search area would be mapped, and submersible vehicles most appropriate for the terrain would be deployed to search for the plane.

The current search effort involving a robot submarine is on hold because a defective part must be replaced. The transponder defect inhibits communication between the submersible and the ship from which it is deployed.

The search coordination center said the Ocean Shield ship is taking the Bluefin 21 submersible to Dampier, Australia, to get the spare parts, in a journey that could take days.

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