The carrier has unanimously been elected a oneworld member-designate by the chief executives of the alliance's member airlines at a meeting on the sidelines...

Malaysia Airlines is to join the oneworld alliance in 2012.

The carrier has unanimously been elected a oneworld member-designate by the chief executives of the alliance’s member airlines at a meeting on the sidelines of IATA’s 2011 World Air Transport Summit, which opens in Singapore on June 6.

A formal alliance membership agreement will be completed soon and Malaysia Airlines is expected to start flying as part of oneworld late next year, according to the alliance.

As it prepares for its alliance membership, Malaysia Airlines intends to develop bilateral links with a number of oneworld’s established partners.  It already codeshares with oneworld partners Cathay Pacific and Royal Jordanian.

When Malaysia Airlines becomes part of oneworld, its customers will gain access to the alliance’s global network.  Malaysia Airlines will expand oneworld’s global coverage to almost 950 destinations in 150 countries, served by a combined fleet of more than 2,600 aircraft operating some 10,000 flights a day and carrying 358 million passengers a year.

Three established oneworld member airlines serve Malaysia, with Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Royal Jordanian flying to Kuala Lumpur, and Cathay Pacific also to Penang and (through its Dragonair affiliate) Kota Kinabalu.  Opportunities for expanding the alliance’s coverage of the country will be explored as Malaysia Airlines prepares to join, according to oneworld.

Among the many long-haul aircraft in Malaysia Airlines' large fleet are three Airbus A330-200s

When it becomes part of oneworld, members of Malaysia Airlines’ Enrich frequent-flyer program will be able to earn and redeem rewards on any of oneworld’s 14 other carriers, with top tier members able to use any of the group’s 550 plus airport lounges, and its network will be covered by oneworld’s range of alliance fares.

At the same time, frequent-flyer cardholders of oneworld’s established airlines will be able to earn and redeem rewards when flying on Malaysia Airlines.

Qantas will serve as sponsor of Malaysia Airlines’ entry into oneworld.

“The Board of Malaysia Airlines had targeted entry into an alliance this year.  I am glad we are at the stage where the initiation with oneworld is formalised,” Tan Sri Dr Mohd Munid Abdul Majid, Malaysia Airlines’ chairman, said in a statement.

“With the world airline industry increasingly focused on alliances, we have carried out careful analysis of the options now available to Malaysia Airlines. The time is clearly right for our company to join one of the global airline groups, and oneworld is clearly the best option for us,” said Tengku Azmil Aziz, Malaysia Airlines’ managing director and chief executive officer.

“Oneworld already features four of the best airlines in Asia-Pacific, including member-elect Kingfisher Airlines,” noted Bruce Ashby, CEO of oneworld. “Adding another leading Asian carrier, in Malaysia Airlines, will greatly enhance oneworld’s offering throughout the world’s fast[est]-growing region for air travel demand.”

Malaysia Airlines started with the incorporation of Malayan Airways Limited (MAL) on October 12, 1937. It launched operations on April 2, 1947 with its first commercial flight as the national airline and turned into an international airline in less than a decade.

In 1963, the carrier changed its name to Malaysian Airlines Limited, MAL. In 1965, with the separation of Singapore from Malaysia, MAL became a bi-national airline and was renamed Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA). In 1973, the partners went separate ways. Malaysia introduced Malaysian Airline Limited, which was subsequently renamed Malaysian Airline System or in short, Malaysia Airlines.

Today, Malaysia Airlines and its subsidiaries employ 20,000 staff, flying around 45,000 passengers daily, serving almost 100 destinations globally in more than 30 countries across Asia, Australasia, Europe, Africa and North and South America. Its destinations include oneworld hubs in Buenos Aires, Delhi, Hong Kong, London Heathrow, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Sydney and Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports.

Malaysia Airlines carried 15.7 million passengers in 2010, generating revenues of $4.5 billion (assuming an exchange rate of US$1 to MYR3) and posting net profits for the year of $78 million and $88 million at the operating level,

On its medium-haul and short-haul services, Malaysia Airlines offers a two-class cabin.  On its long haul routes, the carrier offers three classes of service: First Class, Business Class and Economy.

The Malaysia Airlines group’s fleet comprises 126 aircraft, with Malaysia Airlines itself operating 10 Boeing 747-400s, 17 777-200s, 11 Airbus A330-300s, three A330-200s, 12 Boeing 737-800s and 37 737-400s as well as seven freighters.  Its orders include six Airbus A380s, for delivery from 2012, as well as 31 more 737-800s, 13 A330-300s and four A330-200F freighters.

Malaysia Airlines is listed on the Malaysia Bourse and is majority-owned by the Malaysian government.