Distraught MH370 families beseech Malaysia Airlines: 'Is any life worth so little?'

A group which says it represents the families of the missing people asks whether a compensation claim should be "worth less than the price of an automobile or a couple of first class tickets on a Malaysia Airlines flight"

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The Independent Online

It is approaching seven months to the day that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared off radar – and as the anniversary approaches, the families of the missing passengers and crew say the airline has little regard for the “value of human life”.

A statement from Voice370, the group that says it represents the families of those on board the stricken flight, also said it was “increasingly frustrated and concerned with the lack of information provided” to them, coupled with the ongoing distress surrounding compensation payments and what a ‘suitable’ amount of money should be for one in their situation.

MH370 was travelling from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China, on 8 March 2014 when it vanished as it crossed the South China Sea. Its wreckage and all 239 people on board have not been seen since.

Voice370 listed the airline’s failure to release “the complete cargo manifest, which may list items that posed a threat to the safety of the aircraft” as an example of the information they seek to obtain.


“In contract, in the case MH17 [which was shot down over Ukrainian air space], a full and complete manifest was released within three days of the incident, listing even cats and dogs on board,” the group said.

Addressing the issue of adequate compensation under a subheading entitled ‘What is the value of a life?’, the statement said the families, immediately after the incident, had been “besieged by lawyers from around the world” and were pressed to “sign retainers on the promise that they could obtain millions of dollars in each case”.

The group said these lawyers were “turned away”, but that in the meantime Malaysia Airlines gifted each family with US$5,000 and a subsequent $50,000, confirming they would not have to repay any difference should the airline’s legal liability show that they in fact owe the families less.

Then under another subheading, “We are left asking ‘is any life worth so little?’”, the support group’s statement reads: “Does Malaysia Airlines really believe that a family's claim for losing a loved one may be worth less than the price of an automobile or a couple of first class tickets on a Malaysia Airlines flight?

Parents and children release a sky lantern, with a note of prayer written for MH370, on 13 September

“Will the family of an American passenger receive many times more compensation than the family of a Malaysian passenger who suffered the very same loss?

“Are these corporations, who take our safety in their hands when we fly, telling the world that the value of human life is simply dependent on who you are, and where you come from?”

They added that “no sum of money” could truly compensate the families for their losses and said that they “do not seek to profit from the tragedy”.

“Malaysia Airlines cannot undo this tragedy. However, a fair and adequate compensation for all, regardless of circumstances, would reflect the magnitude of the effect this tragedy has had on our lives and should be commensurate to this being the worst air tragedy the industry has ever seen.

“We should not be forced to begin litigation in countries across the world to force the airline and its insurer to live up to its legal responsibilities.”

Search teams are resuming their hunt for the aircraft, following a four-month break, now that crews have mapped the seabed roughly 1,100miles off the western coast of Australia.

It is hoped the 23,000-sq mile patch of the Indian Ocean will hold the clues or even the aircraft’s wreckage, after it possibly ran out of fuel and crashed.

Malaysia Airlines released a statement last month seeking to address an article that had claimed it was denying the families full compensation.

“MAS [Malaysia Airlines] is acutely conscious of its moral and legal obligations to those affected by the terrible tragedy which befell our flight MH17 and has never sought to avoid paying full compensation in accordance with the law,” the company said.

It claimed that the relevant law – the 1999 Montreal Convention – holds information for the Australian claimants and that the initial $50,000 in aid was non-binding and “will be part of the final damages payable”.

“We will also do our utmost to ensure that fair and adequate compensation is paid to families of those affected by this tragedy as soon as possible.”

The Independent has contacted Malaysia Airlines for further comment.