Huffpost WorldPost

Malaysia Airlines' Lack Of Information Angers Relatives

Posted: Updated:

BEIJING (AP) — The anguished hours had turned into a day and a half. Fed up with awaiting word on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, relatives of passengers in Beijing lashed out at the carrier with a handwritten ultimatum and an impromptu news conference.

Faced with an emergency, the airline said it was doing all it could to answer questions about Flight MH370, which disappeared from radar Saturday with 239 people aboard while heading from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The uncertainty over the plane's whereabouts was frustrating relatives, but also hindering the carrier's ability to respond: It's difficult to deliver a clear message with so much still unclear.

From a room set aside at a hotel near the Beijing airport, a man with a black shirt emerged with a statement signed by about 100 of the relatives, saying that unless the carrier could give them some clarity, they would take their complaints to the Malaysian Embassy.

"We don't believe Malaysia Airlines anymore. Sorry everyone, we just don't believe them anymore," the man, who refused to give his name, told a crowd of reporters Sunday.

By this time, the airline already had dispatched dozens of caregivers to Beijing and assigned one to each family, provided accommodation, food, transport and financial assistance. It said it was providing regular updates despite a lack of information about the plane.

But the initial disorder of Malaysia Airlines' response, and its lack of official contact with relatives in the early going set the tone for the ensuing hours of waiting.

"One of the most important things to remember here," said Frank Taylor, a former director of an aviation safety center at Cranfield University in Britain, "is that it's much easier to stand down staff after an initial over-reaction than to play catch-up after an initial under-reaction."

The relatives had expected the plane's arrival at 6:30 a.m. Saturday. About four hours later, a handwritten note was posted on a white board in the arrival hall advising relatives to use a shuttle service to go to the Lido Hotel to await information. "It can't be good," said one weeping woman aboard the first bus.

But when the family members got there, they wandered around lost and distressed before hotel staff — apparently unprepared — escorted them into a private area. It was several more hours before an airline spokesman made a brief statement to reporters, providing little information.

"We're literally trying to find out what happened and until you actually find the aircraft you have no way of knowing what actually went on there," the airline's commercial director, Hugh Dunleavy, told The Associated Press on Sunday. "Our main focus has been to come here, meet the families, give them as much information as we can but without raising false hopes."

Still, passengers' relatives gathered in Beijing complained that the airline hasn't been forthcoming with information. Instead of hearing from the carrier, they said, they've had to rely on news reports for updates on the search.

The initial lack of word led to criticism that the airline did nothing in the six hours after the Boeing 777 jet vanished at 1:20 a.m. while cruising at 36,000 feet. But Dunleavy said the airline had immediately notified all planes in the nearby airspace to be on the lookout. They contacted air traffic control authorities in Malaysia, Vietnam, and China. They notified Malaysia's Civil Aviation Department and Transport Ministry.

The airline made no public announcement before the plane's scheduled 6:30 a.m. landing because it would have had enough fuel to continue in the air, Dunleavy said.

About an hour after the expected arrival time, the airline released its first statement saying it had lost contact with the plane.

"It does not mean, and is not true, that we were not doing anything in that period. It was a full ongoing investigation and search and rescue" by Malaysian authorities, Dunleavy said.

By Saturday afternoon, the rumors had started flying, and airline officials had to verify each one — all of which took time. Did the plane land in Nanning, a southern Chinese city? No, it did not. Was a crash off the Vietnam coast confirmed? It was not. Did Vietnamese officials detect the plane's signal? Officials later denied it.

In the Lido Hotel, meanwhile, red-eyed relatives were seeing the rumors on smartphones but not hearing the airline's verifications. Impatience grew.

After 30 hours had passed without contact with the plane, airline officials told the relatives to prepare for the worst. After about 36 hours, the relatives at the Lido issued their statement, and the man in the black shirt went before reporters.

"They're still telling us they can't find this plane," the man said. "All the information we're getting is from the media. We, who are part of the relatives, feel that this is a very improper and indifferent way to treat the family members."

The airline should have been more communicative from the beginning, even if it didn't have any news to provide, said Ira Kalb, a crisis management expert at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

"You have got to get out ahead of the story and you have got to do whatever you can to comfort the relatives of the people that were on the flight," Kalb said. "If you don't have all the information you just say: 'Look, we're investigating and we're trying to get as much information as we can and as soon as we get it we'll pass it on to you. "'

By later Sunday, the airline was trying to speak more regularly with relatives and expedite passport and visa applications for those who wanted to go to Malaysia. Even that came under fire by some family members.

"We don't want to go to Malaysia now," Guo Qishun, whose son-in-law was on the missing plane, said Monday. "We are in China now and the Malaysia Airlines people still treat us with such a bad attitude, if we go to Malaysia, will they take care of us? I doubt it."


Associated Press writers Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Ian Mader, Louise Watt and videojournalists Peng Peng and Helene Franchineau in Beijing contributed to this report.

live blog

Oldest Newest

The Wall Street Journal reports on a potential clue in the plane investigation:

A “partial ping” received eight minutes after a final complete transmission between Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and an orbiting satellite began on the missing jet, in the latest clue that could help investigators unravel what happened to the jet before it stopped flying.

The final partial transmission from the missing Boeing Co. 777-200ER, which disappeared from civilian radar on March 8, “originates with the aircraft for reasons not understood,” said Chris McLaughlin, senior vice president of Inmarsat PLC, which operates the satellite.

Read the full story here.

Share this: tumblr

Chicago-based law firm Ribbeck Law Chtd., representing the father of a passenger on MH370, filed a request in Illinois state court on Tuesday seeking Malaysia Airlines and Boeing's records on the missing plane, Bloomberg reports.

Januari Siregar, father of passenger Firman Chandra Siregar, has requested 26 types of data, including information about the maintenance of the jet, the crew's training, and any cargo on board, according to the report.

Read the full story here.

Share this: tumblr

Wired explains that U.S. Navy underwater microphones may be essential to the MH370 search now that authorities are looking in an area of the southern Indian Ocean in places as deep as 23,000 feet.

From Wired:

The 70-pound tow fish, which is formally known in true Pentagon style as Towed Pinger Locator 25, is a hydrodynamic microphone designed specifically to listen for the acoustic signal of the data and cockpit voice recorders carried aboard all commercial and military aircraft. It can track the devices to depths of 20,000 feet.

The U.S. has deployed a pair of tow fish to a Royal Australian Navy Rescue Ship, which will drag them through the search area looking for pings from the missing plane's flight data recorder, according to Wired.

Read the full report here.

Share this: tumblr

The Washington Post reports that Chinese officials are concerned that relatives grieving the disappearance of flight MH370 could redirect their anger from Malaysia onto China.

From The Washington Post:

At a meeting of provincial officials last week, according to people who were in the room, they discussed preventing a larger movement from forming out of the passengers’ families.

While the families' outrage and frustration is genuinely targeted at Malaysian authorities, China is taking care to make sure it stays that way, the Post notes.

At a rare-sanctioned protest at the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on Tuesday, plainclothes men who did not appear to be family members came to rally the protesters, according to the Post:

In the meantime, in one bus, a man with a loudspeaker prepared the relatives. “We don’t have any contradictions with the Chinese government, right?” he yelled into the loudspeaker, waiting for them to yell back “right!” “We don’t have any contradictions with the media, right?”

Read the full story here.

Share this: tumblr

malaysia airlines
Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Share this: tumblr

From the Associated Press:

Malaysia Airlines says it is providing comprehensive support for the families of the 239 people aboard Flight 370.

FOOD AND LODGING: Hotel, transportation, meals and other expenses have been provided for up to five family members per passenger since the flight disappeared March 8, and the airline intends to continue the support as long as families require it.

FINANCIAL HELP: The airline provided US,000 per passenger to the next of kin initially and will offer more payments as the search for the jetliner continues.

ROUND-THE-CLOCK CARE: It has assigned more than 700 caregivers — including two per family — to offer support and counseling to families on a 24-hour basis.

Share this: tumblr

When Malaysia Airlines Flight #370 disappeared on March 8, it carried 227 passengers and 12 crew members. The youngest passenger was 2-year-old Yan Zhang, the oldest was 79-year-old Baotang Lou.

Click here to view the entire passenger/crew manifest.

Share this: tumblr

By: Tan Sri Md Nor Md Yusof, Chairman of Malaysia Airlines

As you will be aware, last night the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najjib Razak, announced new evidence regarding the disappearance of MH370 on 8th March.

Based on this evidence, the Prime Minister’s message was that we must accept the painful reality that the aircraft is now lost and that none of the passengers or crew on board survived.

This is a sad and tragic day for all of us at Malaysia Airlines. While not entirely unexpected after an intensive multi-national search across a 2.24 million square mile area, this news is clearly devastating for the families of those on board. They have waited for over two weeks for even the smallest hope of positive news about their loved ones.

This has been an unprecedented event requiring an unprecedented response. The investigation still underway may yet prove to be even longer and more complex than it has been since March 8th. But we will continue to support the families – as we have done throughout. And to support the authorities as the search for definitive answers continues. I will now ask our Group Chief Executive¸ Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, to provide you will with fuller details of our support for the families.

By: Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, Group Chief Executive Officer, Malaysia Airlines

I stand before you today not only as the Group Chief Executive Officer of Malaysia Airlines, but also as a parent, as a brother, as a son. My heart breaks to think of the unimaginable pain suffered by all the families. There are no words which can ease that pain. Everyone in the Malaysia Airlines family is praying for the 239 souls on MH370 and for their loved ones on this dark day. We extend our prayers and sincere condolences.

We all feel enormous sorrow and pain. Sorrow that all those who boarded Flight MH370 on Saturday 8th March, will not see their families again. And that those families will now have to live on without those they love. It must be remembered too that 13 of our own colleagues and fellow Malaysians were also on board.

And let me be very clear on the events of yesterday evening. Our sole and only motivation last night was to ensure that in the incredibly short amount of time available to us, the families heard the tragic news before the world did. Wherever humanly possible, we did so in person with the families or by telephone, using SMS only as an additional means of ensuring fully that the nearly 1,000 family members heard the news from us and not from the media.

Ever since the disappearance of Flight MH370 Malaysia Airlines’ focus has been to comfort and support the families of those involved and support the multi-national search effort. We will continue to do this, while we also continue to support the work of the investigating authorities in the Southern Indian Ocean.

Like everyone else, we are waiting for news from those authorities. We know that while there have been an increasing number of apparent leads, definitive identification of any piece of debris is still missing. It is impossible to predict how long this will take. But after 17 days, the announcement made last night and shared with the families is the reality which we must now accept. When Malaysia Airlines receives approval from the investigating authorities, arrangements will be made to bring the families to the recovery areas if they so wish. Until that time, we will continue to support the ongoing investigation. And may I express my thanks to the Government and all of those involved in this truly global search effort.

In the meantime, Malaysia Airlines’ overwhelming focus will be the same as it has been from the outset – to provide the families with a comprehensive support programme. Through a network of over 700 dedicated caregivers, the loved ones of those on board have been provided with two dedicated caregivers for each family, providing care, support and counsel. We are now supporting over 900 people under this programme and in the last 72 hours, we have trained an additional 40 caregivers to ensure the families have access to round-the-clock support.

In addition, hotel accommodation for up to five family members per passenger, transportation, meals and others expenses have been provided since 8th March and that will continue.

Malaysia Airlines has already provided initial financial assistance of USD 5,000 per passenger to the next of kin. We recognize that financial support is not the only consideration. But the prolonged search is naturally placing financial strain on the relatives. We are therefore preparing to offer additional payments as the search continues.

This unprecedented event in aviation history has made the past 18 days the greatest challenge to face our entire team at Malaysia Airlines. I have been humbled by the hard work, dedication, heartfelt messages of concern and offers of support from our remarkable team. We do not know why, and we do not know how this terrible tragedy happened. But as the Malaysia Airlines family, we are all praying for the passengers and crew of Flight MH370.

For past statements, click here.

Share this: tumblr

Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya was asked at a press conference whether he would resign following the disappearance of Flight #370. Yahya said it was a personal decision, and one he would make at a later date, Reuters reported.

Click here for more.

Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr

Malaysia Airlines CEO said Tuesday during a press conference, "We do not know why. We do not know how. We do not know why this terrible tragedy happened."

Share this: tumblr

An Australian official said Tuesday in a press conference: "We're not looking for a needle in a haystack, we're still trying to define where the haystack is."

Share this: tumblr

Australia's Defense Minister said Tuesday that at this point, no debris has been successfully identified or recovered.

Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr

AFP reports that relatives of Chinese passengers are marching in protest to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing seeking information about the crash:

Around 200 family members, some in tears, linked arms and shouted slogans including "The Malaysian government are murderers" and "We want our relatives back".

The embassy is about four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the Lido Hotel, where meetings have been taking place throughout the drama.

Read more here.

Share this: tumblr

China wants to know how Malaysia drew the conclusion that the plane was lost with no survivors, AP reports:

China's official Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng as telling the Malaysian ambassador to Beijing that China wanted to know the specific facts that led Malaysia to announce Monday night that the plane had been lost.

Read more here.

Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr

From Reuters:

Britain's Inmarsat used a wave phenomenon discovered in the 19th century to analyze the seven pings its satellite picked up from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to determine its final destination.

The new findings led Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to conclude on Monday that the Boeing 777, which disappeared more than two weeks ago, crashed thousands of miles away in the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people on board.

The pings, automatically transmitted every hour from the aircraft after the rest of its communications systems had stopped, indicated it continued flying for hours after it disappeared from its flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

From the time the signals took to reach the satellite and the angle of elevation, Inmarsat was able to provide two arcs, one north and one south that the aircraft could have taken.

Inmarsat's scientists then interrogated the faint pings using a technique based on the Doppler effect, which describes how a wave changes frequency relative to the movement of an observer, in this case the satellite, a spokesman said.

The Doppler effect is why the sound of a police car siren changes as it approaches and then overtakes an observer.

Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch was also involved in the analysis.

"We then took the data we had from the aircraft and plotted it against the two tracks, and it came out as following the southern track," Jonathan Sinnatt, head of corporate communications at Inmarsat, said.

The company then compared its theoretical flight path with data received from Boeing 777s it knew had flown the same route, he said, and it matched exactly.

The findings were passed to another satellite company to check, he said, before being released to investigators on Monday.

The paucity of data - only faint pings received by a single satellite every hour or so - meant techniques like triangulation using a number of satellites or GPS (Global Positioning System) could not be used to determine the aircraft's flight path.

Read the full story here.

Share this: tumblr

Searchers are racing to find the plane's black boxes, AP reports:

By law, the boxes must be able to send those signals for at least 30 days following a crash. But experts say they can continue making noise for another 15 days or so beyond that, depending upon the strength of the black box battery at the time of the crash.

Without the black boxes — the common name for the voice and data recorders normally attached to a fuselage — it would be virtually impossible for investigators to definitively say what caused the crash.

Read the full story here.

Share this: tumblr

From HuffPost:

The text message immediately set off a firestorm, with many on the Internet quick to criticize the airliner for not reaching out to relatives by more appropriate means.

In reality, the decision to text the families may not be as egregious as it seems.

MH370 families have chided Malaysia Airlines, as well as Malaysian government authorities, in part because the news media has continuously received new information about the missing plane before the families over the past two weeks.

Read the rest here.

Share this: tumblr

From Reuters:

Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng told Malaysia's ambassador in Beijing on Monday that China was demanding Malaysia hand over all relevant satellite data analysis on the missing Malaysian airliner, the Foreign Ministry said.

Xie met the ambassador after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, citing new satellite data, said Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared over two weeks ago en route to Beijing, crashed thousands of miles away in the southern Indian Ocean.

Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr

Boeing is saddened by today's announcement by the prime minister of Malaysia regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies continue to be with the families and loved ones of those aboard. Boeing continues to serve as a technical advisor to the U.S. National Transportation Board.

Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr

Inmarsat, the company whose analysis undergirds today's announcement on flight MH370, explained to SkyNews how it was able to locate the flightpath of the missing plane.

As the company had already announced earlier, its satellites kept receiving hourly signals from the plane despite the fact that the jet's communication systems were switched off. Inmarsat then analyzed data from flights that took a similar path to MH370.

Inmarsat's senior vice president Chris McLoughlin said:

"What we did two weeks ago was say it could be north or it could be south, and what we've done is refined that with the signals we got from other aircraft and that gives you a very good fit."

"Previous aircraft provided a pattern, and that pattern to the south is virtually what we got in our suggested estimate. The fit is very, very strong."

"We passed the information on after it had been peer reviewed by others in the UK air industry and after it had been compared with Boeing."

Head over to SkyNews for the full story.

Share this: tumblr
Share this: tumblr

BBC Transport Correspondent Richard Westcott tweets from the offices of British satellite company Inmarsat, who provided data analysis to Malaysia on the location of missing flight MH370.

Share this: tumblr

Around the Web

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 mystery: Jet's door may have been ...

Vast waters hide clues in hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 - CNN ...

Angry Chinese want information on missing Malaysia Airlines flight ...

Missing Malaysia Airlines plane 'may have turned back'

Debris may be from missing Malaysia Airlines flight

No sign of Malaysia Airline wreckage; questions over stolen passports