Mandala Airlines was founded in 1969. The airline was named after Operation Mandala, the military operations to incorporate West Papua into Indonesia. The name also refers to mandala, a Sanskrit term for a diagram symbolizing the universe, which is used as the logo of the corporation.
In its early years Mandala Airlines operated flights between Jakarta and destinations in eastern Indonesia. In 1972 Mandala took over Seulawah Air Service, which flew to cities in western Indonesia, giving the airline a national coverage. Despite being awarded as Indonesia’s “Most Potential Brand in Airlines Service” in 2002, Mandala found it hard to compete with other recently-emerged Indonesian airlines. After the Indonesian government refused to take over Mandala Airlines, Cardig International acquired the airline in 2006. Within one year of its acquisition, Mandala Airlines transformed its image into a modern airline satisfying international standards of safety. It adopted the low-cost carrier model, in order to compete with other low-cost airlines in Indonesia. In January 2011, Mandala Airlines temporarily stopped flying all of their fleet due to debt problems. Mandala resumed operations in April 2012 as a partner airline of Singapore-based Tiger Airways. In July 2013, as part of the Tiger Airways Group, Mandala Airlines announced its transformation into Tigerair Mandala.