KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) will make advanced compensation payments to the next-of-kin of passengers on board MH370 soon.
MAS group chief executive officer Datuk Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the payments would be made to individuals entitled to claim compensation, in order to meet their immediate economic needs.
"Such advanced payments will not affect the rights of the next-of-kin to claim compensation according to the law at a later stage, and will be calculated as part of the final compensation," he said in a statement yesterday.
He added that immediately after the next-of-kin have returned home, the airline's representatives will be in touch with them at the earliest opportunity to initiate the advanced compensation payment process.
Jauhari also revealed that in line with this adjustment, MAS will be closing all of its Family Assistance Centres around the world by May 7.
"We will keep in close touch with the families on news updates through telephone calls, messages, the Internet and face-to-face meetings," he said.
He added that with support from the government, the airline's Family Support Centres will be established in Kuala Lumpur and in Beijing.
"The detailed plan of follow-up support and services will be informed in person to the families," he said.
Jauhari said despite intensive search operations, probably the largest one in human history, the hard reality has to be faced, that there is still no trace of the aircraft, and the fate of the missing passengers and crew remains unknown till this day.
"The airlines is acutely conscious of, and deeply sympathetic to, the continuing unimaginable anguish, distress and hardship suffered by those with loved ones on board the flight,
"We share the very same feelings and have been doing whatever we can to ease the pain of the families and to provide comfort for them," he said.
Jauhari said the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) in Australia had announced early this week that the search operation in the southern Indian Ocean will be moving to a new phase in the coming weeks, and was certainly not ending.
"In this new phase, the (Malaysian) government, working together with the Australian and Chinese governments, other international partners and specialised companies, plans to intensify the undersea search by deploying more technologically advanced assets in the search zone," he said.
He added that the government had showed its commitment with the recently announced decision to establish an international investigation team led by Malaysia.
"The members will include accredited representatives from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, China, France and Singapore,
"Also included are representatives from relevant international organisations and the civil aviation industry," he said.
Jauhari said the investigation was an independent process in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation standards and recommended practices.
"MAS commits itself to fully support this independent investigation and (will) provide full information and assistance as required," he said.
He said, from past experience, the search and investigation would be a prolonged process.
While MAS is committed to continuing its support to the families during the whole process, he said, the airline was adjusting the mode of services and support.
"Instead of staying in hotels, the families of MH370 are advised to receive information updates on the progress of the search and investigation and other support by Malaysia Airlines within the comfort of their own homes, with the support and care of their families and friends."