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Malaysia Airlines posts higher Q1 loss as China sales slump due to missing plane

FILE - In this March 25, 2014 file photo, Malaysia's acting Transport Minister and Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein answers a reporter's questions during a press conference on the missing Malaysia Airlines, Flight 370, at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) in 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. Hishammuddin said Thursday, May 15, 2014, that the government has no plans to provide any financial assistance to bail out Malaysia Airlines. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian, File)

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FILE - In this March 25, 2014 file photo, Malaysia's acting Transport Minister and Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein answers a reporter's questions during a press conference on the missing Malaysia Airlines, Flight 370, at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) in 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. Hishammuddin said Thursday, May 15, 2014, that the government has no plans to provide any financial assistance to bail out Malaysia Airlines. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian, File)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysia Airlines said its net loss expanded 59 per cent 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 per cent 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 cost.

Sales from China fell 60 per cent 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.

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

At an afternoon news conference, 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.

The plan involves reanalyzing the data accumulated so far to identify a more accurate search area, then mapping the seabed there and deploying submersible vehicles most appropriate for the terrain.

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