Once upon a time - until 9am, Beijing time, on Monday to be precise - the safe automatic assumption about any announcement beginning “Malaysian Airlines deeply regrets …” was that it would then go on to apologise for the cancellation or late arrival of a flight.
In the case of MH370, the airline’s text message to the families of the missing took another course, informing them of the certainty that the flight was lost and that all on board are dead.
Obviously, there are no adequate words for this. The relatives of 153 Chinese passengers were gathered in a Beijing hotel when the texts cheerily pinged on to their phones. How hard could it possibly have been for the airline to send staff to break the news as gently as possible? Instead, their deafening shrieks and sobs were provoked by a round robin message of the kind that traditionally details some thrilling development concerning the online check-in.
They would have sobbed and shrieked however they were told, of course, and with such grievous news perhaps it is banal to fixate on the mode of communication rather than the fact of it. Yet even in an increasingly clinical world, Malaysian Airlines raised the bar of technological dehumanisation this week - and short of taking the probably academic decision never under any circumstances to fly with it, there is nothing to be done about that but marvel in horror at one of those gruesome moments when blindingly moronic callousness seems to verge on outright wickedness.