Missing MAS flight: Why the late response from MAS?

Distraught relatives and friends of passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight rushed to the Beijing international airport on Saturday morning, only to be met with little or no response from the airline officials.

Anxiety soon turned to anger after the crowd did not get the information they were looking for.

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"We knew nothing about the flight except that it was delayed. It was through a microblog that I knew it was missing," said Mr Zhang Jianhui, a 36-year-old Malaysian who was waiting for his friend and wife at about 10am at the arrival hall of the airport's Terminal 3.

Some were unhappy with the slow reaction from the airline, China Daily requested.

"Nobody contacted us and we knew nothing until we saw the news on TV," said a man who was at the airport with his sister.

Meanwhile, experts have questioned the late response of the airline, China's official news agency Xinhua reported.

In line with international custom, an airline should publish information 30 seconds after losing contact with any flight, according to Mr Zhang Qihuai, associate chairman of the Aerial Law Study Institution of Beijing Legal Study Association.

Contact with the plane was lost at around 2.40am, but it wasn't until 7.30am that the airline announced the plane as missing, according to Mr Zhang.

Friends and relatives of passengers lashed out at the airline as journalists besieged them in a Beijing hotel. Many were taken there by the airline after going to the airport to meet the flight.

A press conference was expected at the same location, and when others arrived later, they had to run the gauntlet of scores of Chinese and international reporters shoving microphones and cameras in their faces, AFP reported.

A man in his 60s wiped away tears with a handkerchief as he entered the hotel room.

He hit a cameraman in the face who tried to film him as he walked by, as a security guard shouted: "Don't you all have families?"

In the evening, a group of about 10 family members made their way into the room to meet airline officials, sobbing into their hands.

A man in his 20s struggled to help a grieving older woman, possibly his mother, into a quiet room as journalists shouted questions at her.

"They are useless," he said of the airline. "I don't know why they haven't released any information."

About 20 people stormed out of the room at one point, enraged about the lack of information.

"There's no one from the company here, we can't find a single person. They've just shut us in this room and told us to wait," one middle-aged man who declined to give his name told Reuters.

"We want them to show their face. They haven't even given us the passenger list."

Another relative, trying to evade a throng of reporters, muttered: "They're treating us worse than dogs."

For many, social media was the sole channel for them to learn about the latest information.

Mr Liu Mengmeng, who works for a foreign company in Beijing, told China Daily that he arrived at the airport to pick up an executive of his firm, only to find that he had to face a long wait.

He said: "I could do nothing but keep scrolling on my mobile phone screen for the latest information."


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