Families informed of MH370 announcement beforehand, says Malaysia Airlines

Policemen move in to stop family members (left), whose relatives were onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, giving an interview to the media, during a gathering with other family members to pray for the safe return of the passengers, in
Policemen move in to stop family members (left), whose relatives were onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, giving an interview to the media, during a gathering with other family members to pray for the safe return of the passengers, in front of Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing on Jan 30, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (The Star/Asia News Network) - Malaysia Airlines (MAS) denied accusations that it did not inform the next-of-kin of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 victims before the plane's disappearance was declared an accident last Thursday and all aboard presumed dead.

"Prior to the scheduled announcement by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Malaysia, all next-of-kin were notified via telephone calls, and in certain instances by text messages when the calls were unanswered. These were done personally by its Family Support Centre, caregivers or representatives from the airline's regional offices," read the statement on MAS' official Facebook page.

According to MAS, next-of-kin in China were notified via text messages by the airline's Family Communications and Support Centre in Beijing.

MAS also assured the public that they would continue to organise engagement sessions with family members alongside the Malaysian Government and related agencies to discuss matters relating to the declaration.

In a press conference on Thursday, the DCA officially declared the disappearance of flight MH370 as an accident.

The implications of the declaration will enable next-of-kin to obtain assistance and compensation for the 239 passengers and crew.

MAS and the DCA came under fire from victims' next-of-kin and the public over what was seen as an unorganised announcement after a few family members claimed they were left in the dark.

An earlier press conference scheduled for 3.30pm on that day was cancelled and replaced with the broadcast of the pre-recorded statement due the unexpected presence of next-of-kin at the press conference venue.

MH370 was on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 last year when it disappeared off radars.