After the war, there was a new start with a partnership between the Straits Steamship Company and Imperial Airways, who formed Malayan Airways Limited which began flying in 1947 between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur using an Airspeed Consul twin-engined aircraft. Other British Commonwealth airlines (including BOAC and Qantas Empire Airways) provided technical assistance, and by 1955, Malayan Airways had joined IATA and it had a small fleet of Douglas DC-3s. Later these were expanded to the Douglas DC-4 Skymaster, the Vickers Viscount, the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, the Bristol Britannia, the De Havilland Comet 4 and the Fokker F27.
By 1957 the airline became state-run, and by 1960 was a public listed company, and flew Viscounts plus the large 84-seat Bristol Britannia from Singapore to Hong Kong and Brunei, and from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok via Penang.
However the airline suffered in the Malay Emergency in the 1960s. Malaysia Airlines was firmly placed in the Federation of Malaysia and changed name from "Malayan Airways" to "Malaysia Airlines" (although this was still abbreviated to MAS). In 1966, With Singapore breaking away, the airline changed again, to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA), although this was always a troubled partnership. MSA rapidly embrased the jet age, buying its first Boeing aircraft: the Boeing 707s, and Boeing 737s.
The two airlines broke up just six years later. Singapore Airlines took the entire fleet of seven Boeing 707s and five Boeing 737s, as well as MSA's headquarters, which were located in Singapore. This left Malaysia Airlines with the rump of the airline, and instead of using the initials MSA, it transposed them to become MAS.
In 1972 The new Malaysian Airline System was once again back with just a few domestic routes within Malaysia and a small fleet of Fokker F27's. It needed to expand, and by 1976 it bought DC-10 jet aircraft, and began flying to London; these flights later included Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.
In 1977 a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-200 was hijacked and crashed in Johor, killing all 100 people aboard.
There was a growth spurt at Malaysia Airlines during the 1980s, when it expanded to a large number of Australian cities, plus Los Angeles and Honolulu in the US. In 1993 it finally bought the jumbo jet, the Boeing 747, and reached South America with a flight to Buenos Aires in Argentina: however, these flights didn't last long.
The Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 brought this expansion to a halt, and indeed the airline was on it's knees for several years afterwards. It turned out that much of the expansion was ego-driven, and gave low yields (IE: not many seats were filled) with poor yield management and an inefficient route network. The airline cut many unprofitable routes, such as Mexico, South America, Manchester, Brussels, Darwin, Honolulu, Madrid, Munich and Vancouver. It also sold much of its virtually brand new 747 fleet: Qantas for example picked up three Boeing 747s at bargain prices. Vast numbers of domestic routes were also axed: bringing the number of domestic destinations down from 114 to 22.
In March 2000, Malaysia Airlines wrote off a nearly brand new Airbus A330-300, after a chemical called oxalyl chloride leaked while unloading, and rotted the aluminium hull to such an extent, the aircraft could not be saved.
In 2003 there were several incidents of what the police have called sabotage of aircraft at Kuala Lumpur. A cable in a Boeing 777-200ER snapped or was cut before the Bombay-bound aircraft was to take off. Later in 2004 several wires on an Airbus A330-300 bound for Australia were found to have been cut shortly before take-off. Three of the airline's staff were later arrested.
Many of Malaysia Airlines aircraft were also old, and not fuel efficient. In 2009 Malaysia Airlines announced the purchase of 15 new Airbus A330 aircraft, with options for another 10. The idea is to use them on medium-haul routes, Airbus A380 on long-haul flagship services to London, and Boeing 737 aircraft on short-haul routes.
In the latest accident to befall Malaysia Airlines, in late 2009 a Boeing 737-400 suffered major structural damage when the undercarriage collapsed while the aircraft at the gate at Kuching Airport.