Malaysia Airlines marks its 40th anniversary of flying to destinations in Thailand, but needs to build awareness as competition toughens up from its rival Air Asia.

To mark the anniversary the airline repainted an aircraft in the original 1972 colours that very few of today’s savvy travellers would remember let alone its long history dating back to 1947 through various national aviation enterprises.

Bangkok was one of the airline’s first destinations after Malaysia Airlines was formed in 1972, although it had its routes in an airline called Malaysian Airline System, which served Bangkok and even earlier back to the original post-WWII airline, Malayan Airways that started in 1947.

For a considerable spell, 1966 to 1972, the airline operated as a joint venture called Malaysia Singapore Airlines that eventually dissolved over board room disputes between the two countries.

Malaysia Airlines area manager Thailand and Indochina, Selvadurai Sinniah, told TTR Weekly that next year the carrier would focus on buildling brand awareness in the Thai market in a move to win back customers that it believe it has lost to rivals.

“We call it ‘win back customers’ strategy. We need to build brand awareness. During the past few years we left aside branding…The low-cost carrier has painted the town red…Our ultimate aim is that customers specify Malaysia Airlines is their preferred choice,” he said.

The mention painting the town red is a reference to AirAsia, which dominates the market even on MH’s home turf.

Branding campaigns will be launched through several channels — traditional media as well as social media.  Last October, the carrier started its fifth daily flight on the Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur route, an early-bird flight that departs Bangkok 0620 and arrives in KL 0930. It makes it possible for business visitors to spend the day in Kuala Lumpur and return to Bangkok in the evening.

Mr Sinniah said a sixth frequency could slot in between the present first and second flight, which departs 0620 and 1105 during the winter schedule if demand picks up. In addition by mid-2013, all Bangkok services will be operated using the newer B737-800.