MAS defends move to inform families about MH370 via text message

Malaysia Airlines has always put the needs of the families of passengers and crew of the MH370 first since the plane went missing on March 8, two senior officials said today.

MAS chairman Tan Sri Md Nor Md Yusof and chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahaya were responding to criticism about the way it has handled the situation with the families of the 239 passengers and crew who were now presumed dead.

Chinese and international media have criticised MAS' move to send a text message to inform the families on the fate of the flight just before Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that flight MH370 was feared to have ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

"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," Ahmad Jauhari said.

"Wherever humanely 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."

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had announced yesterday that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which vanished more than two weeks ago with 239 people on board, had "ended in the southern Indian Ocean".

The announcement also drew flak as it was made even before any wreckage was found.

Najib cited fresh satellite tracking data and said the information was being shared "out of a commitment to openness and respect for the families, two principles which have guided this investigation".

Malaysian authorities have been criticised for perceived secretiveness or contradictory information since the plane fell off air traffic control screens on March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

In Beijing, some relatives of passengers vented their anger, calling Malaysian authorities as "murderers".

China's deputy foreign minister demanded Putrajaya hand over the new satellite data.

Nor said today, based on the evidence presented by the investigators, the "painful reality" was that the aircraft was lost and that none of the passengers and crew had survived.

"This is a sad and tragic day for all of us at Malaysia Airlines," he said.

"By the evidence given to us and by rational deduction, we can only arrive at that conclusion. MAS has lost its plane and by extension, the people on that plane."

When asked why the conclusion was reached so quickly, he declined to elaborate, saying that it would be better answered by investigators.

Both Nor and Ahmad Jauhari also refused to speculate on what had occurred in the plane before it went missing, noting that investigations were ongoing.

Nor said although the news was not unexpected, it was devastating for the families of those on board, who had waited for more than two weeks for some news.

"No two people affected by the incident would show similar responses. And we have also been praised and we truly appreciate that... (it) is what is motivating us at this time.

"No amount of compensation or consolation will make up for this (loss to the families)." – March 25, 2014.