Humiliating: Analysts say Malaysia's handling of the missing plane crisis exposes frailties of Malaysian society itself. Photo: Bloomberg
The litany of confusing and contradictory information that has emerged since the disappearance of flight MH370 has humiliated Malaysia Airlines, and exposed the underlying frailties of Malaysian society itself, analysts say.
Amid an extremely difficult crisis, officials from the airline and the government have provided information that was plain wrong or wildly misleading on at least five occasions.
Revelations of travellers on stolen passports embarking on the flight, and pilots inviting young women into the cockpit, have added to the embarassment.
Most telling, the conduct of officials has enraged the families of those on board the flight. In China, families of the lost have thrown bottles at staff offering comfort and screamed ''all Malaysians are liars!''.
Bridget Welsh, one of the world's foremost experts on Malaysia, says the episode has been a ''defining moment'', and a wrenching one for the country.
At one level it has brought together a multi-racial society as they mourn the missing, but the ham-fisted efforts by ministers, military leaders and airline executives to explain what happened reflects deep-seated problems.
''They really are hurting themselves,'' Professor Welsh said. ''They are just not used to this level of scrutiny. The media is not that open and there's a political culture of not sharing information.''
Then there is the basic issue of competency. Malaysia has long promoted those with Malay ethnicity into the upper levels of the public service and state-owned corporations over the Chinese and Tamil minorities.
''The fact that they had to send junior staff to Beijing because no one in the senior ranks could speak Chinese says a lot,'' she said. ''Twenty-three per cent of the population is Chinese.''
One analyst, who asked not to be named, said the country was riven by cronyism and corruption.
''This country is not a meritocracy.''
The Malaysian government owns 66 per cent of Malaysia Airlines and, until now, it has been praised for a solid safety record.
The airline - arguably the cheapest full service airline in the world - has recently achieved a massive surge in passenger numbers, up almost 30 per cent in the past year.
It is the eighth most popular airline for Australians travelling overseas, with many stopping over in Kuala Lumpur en route to other destinations in Asia and Europe. Australia is its second biggest market after Malaysia
But the chase for market share has seen profits slump, with Malaysia Airlines recording a 171 per cent deterioration in earnings over the past year, recording a loss of 1.17 billion Malaysian ringgit ($577 million) in 2013.