MasterChef winner slams news portal over photo showing 'empty' MAS flight

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - MasterChef UK 2014 winner Catherine Chin Wan Ping Coombes has slammed an Australian news portal over the misuse of a picture of her family and her aboard a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight in an article about the airline struggling with falling passenger numbers.

The picture, taken with her husband and daughter, was used to depict empty seats on the flight for a news report last Friday, titled "Higher commissions, fewer passengers: the struggle to save Malaysia Airlines deepens".

In an Instagram posting, Coombes clarified that the picture was taken before other passengers had boarded the MAS aircraft on Aug 18.

"Woke up to this picture in the media! For anyone who has been on a plane knows, family and children get boarded first, the flight was not empty, it was in fact full," she said via her @ping_coombes account.

She also expressed her disappointment that what was essentially a show of gratitude to the national carrier was used to depict the airline in a negative light.

"It's really sad that a thank you on a kind upgrade that I was offered is being used to attack an airline which has had such a difficult time. We should be offering support and compassion," she wrote.

Her original Twitter posting of the photo was captioned with the message "Thank you @MAS, it is an amazing surprise", in reference to being upgraded to business class seats by the airline.

The Australian portal ( had painted a harsh image of MAS in its report, saying that the airline was burning through its cash reserves in a struggle to survive.

It used a series of images and messages posted by Twitter and Instagram users showing empty seats and check-in lines to prove its point.

MAS was hit by twin tragedies this year - the disappearance of MH370 on March 8 with 239 people on board and the shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine on July 17 with 298 people om board.

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