MALAYSIA - Malaysia Airlines has done its level best to inform the next-of-kin of passengers and crew members of flight MH370 on the latest developments involving the jetliner.
Its chief executive officer, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, said MAS had done whatever humanly possible to assist them. "Our sole and only motivation last night (before a press conference by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak) was to ensure that within the incredibly limited short time, the families were informed first about the tragic news before the whole world did.
"We did so in person by calling or meeting them. We don't want these families to know about the news from the media," said Jauhari when responding to foreign press reports that MAS issued only press statements about the tragic news to family members.
He also denied the assumptions that MAS was "heartless" in handling the crisis and the treatment given to the next-of-kin.
"Everybody is entitled to his opinion. There are lots of people out there who appreciate our efforts in handling the situation.
"And the claims that we have been isolating the families is not correct. They are not isolated but we have placed them at a location for their own comfort and so that they can have privacy, with direct access to MAS caregivers."
He also said in the last 72 hours, an additional 40 caregivers were around to counsel the families round the clock.
"We will continue to provide up to five family members of each passenger with hotel accommodation, transportation, meals and others," said Jauhari.
Jauhari said MAS had provided initial financial aid of US$5,000 (S$6300) per passenger to the next-of-kin. "We know that the financial support is not the only consideration, but the prolonged search naturally places financial strains on the relatives."
He said MAS' priority was to ensure that family members received all the support they needed.
"My heart breaks to think of the unimaginable pain suffered by the families and no words can ease that pain.
"Everyone in MAS is praying for the 239 souls on MH370 and for their loved ones on this dark day.
"We extend our prayers and sincere condolences to the victims' families," he said, adding that all MAS staff felt enormous sorrow and pain.
"Sorrow that all those who boarded flight MH370 on 8 March will not see their families again. And that those families will now have to live on without their loved ones.
"It must be remembered, too, that 13 of our own colleagues and fellow Malaysians were also on board."
Meanwhile, MAS chairman Tan Sri Md Nor Md Yusof said MAS would continue to work closely with the authorities in their investigations while providing continued support to the more than 1,000 family members.