PETALING JAYA: As the multinational hunt for MH370 goes on, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will continue to support more than 900 of the passengers' family members with two dedicated caregivers per family to offer care, support and counsel, said group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya.
He said MAS' comprehensive support programme had more than 700 dedicated caregivers in its network while another 40 additional caregivers were trained in the past 72 hours to ensure the families had access to around-the-clock support.
Ahmad Jauhari, who has been in the harsh glare of the world's media in almost daily press conferences since MH370 disappeared on March 8, said MAS' focus has always been on comforting and supporting the passengers' families.
"We will continue to do this, while we also continue to support the work of the investigating authorities in the southern Indian Ocean,” he told reporters at Kuala Lumpur International Airport during a press conference Tuesday.
Expressing his sorrow after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said investigators concluded that MH370 had ended its flight in the southern Indian Ocean, Ahmad Jauhari said “there are no words which can ease that pain”.
He said its baffling disappearance, unprecedented in aviation history, had made the past 18 days the greatest challenge MAS has ever faced.
“I stand before you today not only as the group chief executive officer of MAS, but also as a parent, as a brother, as a son.
“My heart breaks to think of the unimaginable pain suffered by all the families,” he said, adding that everyone in MAS was praying for the 239 souls onboard MH370 and their loved ones.
Ahmad Jauhari also said he was humbled by the hard work, dedication, concern and support by his team at MAS and thanked the Government and all the other countries involved in the global search effort.
When MAS received approval from the authorities, he said arrangements would be made to fly the families to the recovery areas if they so wished.
He cautioned that it was impossible to predict how long it would take to definitively identify the pieces of debris spotted despite an “increasing number of apparent leads”.
“But after 17 days, the announcement made last night and shared with the families is the reality which we must now accept,” he said.
Ahmad Jauhari also shot down any media reports that MAS had callously informed the passengers’ grief-stricken families of the news by SMS on Monday night.
He said MAS' only motivation had been to ensure the families heard the news before it was announced to the world.
“Wherever humanly possible, we did so in person with the families or by telephone, using SMS only as an additional means of ensuring fully that the nearly 1,000 family members heard the news from us and not from the media,” he stressed.
He added that MAS was prepared to offer additional payments beyond the initial financial assistance of US$5,000 per passenger to the next of kin as the prolonged search was placing financial strain on the relatives.
Besides this, he said hotel accommodation for up to five family members per passenger, transportation, meals and other expenses have been provided since March 8, and that this would continue.
Meanwhile, MAS chairman Tan Sri Md Nor Md Yusof said this was a sad and tragic day for the airline and stressed that it would continue to support the devastated families as well as the authorities as the search for answers continued.
He said that based on the new data, Najib’s message was that “we must accept the painful reality that the aircraft is now lost and that none of the passengers or crew on board survived.”
“While not entirely unexpected after an intensive multi-national search across a 2.24 million square mile area, this news is clearly devastating for the families of those on board. They have waited for over two weeks for even the smallest hope of positive news about their loved ones,” he said, adding that the investigation might yet prove even longer and complex.
There were 239 people onboard MH370, including 12 MAS staff - Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, First Mate Fariq Abdul Hamid and cabin crew Patrick Francis Gomes, Andrew Nari, Goh Sock Lay, Tan Ser Kuin, Wan Swaid Wan Ismail, Junaidi Mohd Kassim, Mohd Hazrin Mohamed Hasnan, Ng Yar Chien, Foong Wai Yueng and Tan Size Hiang.