The search for the Malaysia Airlines aircraft that disappeared almost three years ago with 239 people on board was suspended today.

The decision was taken with “sadness” after a fruitless search for flight MH 370 in more than 146,300 miles of the Indian Ocean.

A joint statement by authorities in Australia, Malaysia and China said they remained hopeful new information would enable the aircraft to be found in the future.

The Boeing 777 was flying from Kuala Lumpar to Beijing on March 8, 2014, when it disappeared from radar screens and is believed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean.

Only seven of the 20 pieces of recovered debris have been identified as definitely or highly likely to be from the missing aircraft.

A report in November said the 777 probably made a “high and increasing rate of descent” into the Indian Ocean.

“Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting edge technology, as well as modelling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately the search has not been able to locate the aircraft,” today’s joint statement said.

“The decision to suspend the underwater search has not been taken lightly nor without sadness.

“Whilst combined scientific studies have continued to refine areas of probability, to date no new information has been discovered to determine the specific location of the aircraft.

“We remain hopeful that new information will come to light and that at some point in the future the aircraft will be located.”

British Airline Pilots Association general secretary Brian Strutton said: “It is disappointing but understandable that the search for MH370 has been suspended.

“Unfortunately this means that investigators will not be able to find out exactly what happened in order to prevent it happening again.

“Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the passengers and crew for whom this must be a very difficult time.”

“From the beginning, pilots have raised questions about how we can prevent this from happening again in the future.

“Today, we reiterate our call for more to be done to have sensible tracking of aircraft from take-off to landing.

“This could include technology such as ‘virtual black boxes’ where safety data can be transmitted when an aircraft experiences problems so it can be located more quickly, as long as protections are put in place to regulate the use of that data.”