Bloomberg News

Flight 370 Family Members Detain Malaysian Air Staff in Standoff

April 25, 2014

Relatives of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Passengers

A man looks at a bulletin board while another speaks on the phone as Chinese relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have a meeting at the Metro Park Hotel in Beijing on April 23, 2014. Photographer: Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

Frustrated relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysian Air (MAS) jet held the carrier’s staff in a Beijing hotel ballroom for more than 10 hours as they demanded the Malaysian government give a fuller accounting of Flight 370.

Tensions have been rising among the mostly Chinese family members over incomplete or conflicting reports shared by government officials as a submarine hunt for the Boeing 777 has failed to yield any debris. A relative of a missing passenger attacked Kalaichelven Shunmugam, Malaysia Airlines’ security supervisor, kicking him in the knee in an April 22 incident, the airline said.

The latest skirmish started when 10 airline staff gathered with about 200 family members at 3 p.m. on April 24, at Beijing’s Metropark Lido Hotel, where the carrier has provided regular updates on the hunt for the missing aircraft.

Staff members were made to wait in the hotel ballroom while about 60 relatives went to the Malaysian Embassy in an attempt to get a government official to attend the session. They were released at 1:44 a.m. local time yesterday, according to a statement on Malaysia Airlines website.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told CNN’s Richard Quest on April 24 that he’s prepared to release a preliminary report on the mysterious flight next week and isn’t yet ready to declare the plane and its passengers lost.

“At some point in time I would be, but right now I think I need to take into account the feelings of the next of kin -- and some of them have said publicly that they aren’t willing to accept it until they find hard evidence,” Razak said.

Elusive Hunt

That’s proven elusive for a Bluefin-21 unmanned underwater vehicle, which has combed 95 percent of the initial search area over 13 missions. The hunt will expand to regions next to the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) radius it was searching in the Indian Ocean if nothing is found, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a statement yesterday.

“We are currently consulting very closely with our international partners on the best way to continue the search into the future,” the JACC said in the statement.

Widening the seabed area would be the next phase in the search for the Malaysian Airline System Bhd. plane that vanished March 8 with 239 people on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. At 50 days, the effort to find Flight 370 is the longest search for a missing passenger jet in modern aviation history.

The Bluefin-21 submarine has been searching for about two weeks to find wreckage. It’s bouncing sound waves off the pitch-black Indian Ocean floor to create images of the seabed in hopes of pinpointing debris from the plane.

The current search zone lies about 1,584 kilometers northwest of Perth, Australia. As many as eight military aircraft and 10 ships were involved in yesterday’s search, JACC said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Julie Johnsson in Chicago at jjohnsson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at anandk@bloomberg.net Molly Schuetz, Stephen West


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