Malaysia’s flag carrier said flight MH370 disappeared at 2.40am local time on Saturday (1840 GMT Friday), about two hours after leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
It had been due to arrive in Beijing at 6.30am local time on Saturday (2230 GMT Friday).
The plane was a Boeing 777-200. The airline’s Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route passes roughly over the Indochinese peninsula.
The flight was carrying 152 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians and seven Australians among the 227 passengers, the airline said on Saturday.
There were also three US citizens, three from France, two passengers each from New Zealand, Ukraine, and Canada, and one each from Italy, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Austria, the airline said in a statement. There were also two infants and twelve crew members on the flight.
“We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts with flight MH370 which departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 am earlier this morning bound for Beijing,” Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, Malaysia Airlines group chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The statement said the carrier was working with authorities, who had launched an effort to locate the aircraft.
There were rumours the plane had landed safely, but Fuad Sharuji, Malaysian Airlines’ vice president of operations control, told CNN that they were untrue and the airline had no idea where the plane was.
Tony Fernandes, chief executive of AirAsia, said on Twitter that the radio failed and all were safe, but the tweet was later deleted.
In an earlier media statement, Malaysia Airlines confirmed that “MH370 has lost contact with Subang Air Traffic Control at 2.40am” on March 8.
“Flight MH370, operated on the B777-200 aircraft, departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am on 8 March 2014. MH370 was expected to land in Beijing at 6.30am the same day. The flight was carrying a total number of 227 passengers (including 2 infants), 12 crew members.”
Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft.
“The airline will provide regular updates on the situation. Meanwhile, the public may contact +603 7884 1234 for further info.”
A report by China’s Xinhua news agency said contact was lost with the plane while it was over Vietnamese airspace.
Xinhua also quoted Chinese aviation authorities saying the plane did not enter China’s air traffic control sphere.
Qin Gang, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: “We are contacting relevant authorities and are trying to confirm relevant information.”
A Beijing airport spokeswoman said the facility had activated an emergency response system.
Screens at the airport indicated the flight was “delayed”.
In 2012, Malaysia Airlines admitted it was in “crisis”, forcing it to implement a cost-cutting campaign centred on slashing routes and other measures.
It recorded its fourth straight quarterly loss during the final three months of 2013 and warned of a “challenging” year ahead due to intense competition.
In 2011, it chalked up a record 2.5bn ringgit ($767m) loss.
Malaysia Airlines has suffered few accidents in its history.
One of its jets crashed in 1977 in southern Malaysia, killing all 93 passengers and seven crew.
A smaller Twin Otter aircraft, operated by its unit MASwings, crashed upon landing in Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo island last October, killing a co-pilot and a passenger.
Boeing, which has been best by problems with its high-tech 787 Dreamliners put into service two years ago, including a months-long global grounding over battery problems last year, issued a brief statement on its Twitter feed.
“We’re closely monitoring reports on Malaysia flight MH370. Our thoughts are with everyone on board,” it said.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies