The families of those who were on board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have hit out at an airline executive who claimed the jet would be declared “lost” by the end of the year.
In an interview with the New Zealand Herald, the commercial director of Malaysia Airlines was reported as saying that passengers’ next of kin would have to be patient waiting for compensation.
Hugh Dunleavy apparently told the newspaper that the authorities in Australia and Malaysia were working towards formally announcing the loss of the Boeing 777 “by the end of the year”.
“We don’t have a final date but once we’ve had an official loss recorded we can work with the next of kin on the full compensation payments for those families,” he said.
Voice 370, a group representing the families of those who on board the flight when it disappeared while on route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March, condemned the comments as causing “agony and confusion”.
It is unknown what impact a formal declaration of the loss would have on the ongoing underwater search effort off the west coast of Australia.
In a statement, Voice 370 said that Mr Dunleavy’s “unilateral declaration brings intense agony and confusion to family members and makes us lose faith in the search effort”.
Malaysia Airlines denied that the statement was an accurate reflection of the investigation into MH370’s disappearance, calling at instead an “expression of personal opinion”, and added that “ongoing search and recovery operations will remain and will not be discontinued”.
The Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) in Australia confirmed its commitment to finding the plane, adding that Mr Dunleavy’s comments were “greatly disturbing for the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board MH370”.
Meanwhile, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which has been issuing regular updates on the progress of the search for MH370, was forced to deny that one of the vessels in the hunt had come across something of significance.
Observers realised that the vessel GO Phoenix had been in the same spot for more than 24 hours – prompting speculation as to what it might have found.
In a statement to news.com.au, the ATSB said the ship had experienced an “issue” with its towable scanner that had now been fixed, adding that search operation was due to be continued.
As of the ATSB’s latest situation report, over 3,000 square km of the 55,000 square km search zone had been scoured without success.
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