SEPANG, March 25 — Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will fly the families of those on board flight MH370 to observe recovery efforts in Australia once the plane's location is “established”.
Speaking during a press conference today, MAS chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the airline must wait until then as Australia has said it will not issue entry visas before there is evidence that the missing plane was in its waters.
“Arrangements will be made to bring families to the recovery areas, if they so wish,” Ahmad Jauhari said today.
When asked for his opinion on the restriction imposed by Australia, the MAS CEO said his opinion will have no bearing on the country's position.
“As for going to Australia, we have been informed that visas will only be given to family members once evidence (of the plane's location) has been established,” he explained.
Earlier today, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the country will make preparations to receive familiy members of those on board the missing plane.
“I understand that the loved ones of those on that plane may well wish to come to Australia in coming days and weeks. They will find a welcoming country that is more than willing to embrace them in this difficult time,” Abbott said in the Australian Parliament today.
He also announced that visa processing fees will be waived for the affected relatives, but did not say that Australia will hold off issuing the entry documents until signs of the plane are found.
Yesterday, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that further analysis of previous communications between the missing Boeing 777-200ER and a satellite belonging to UK firm Inmarsat placed the plane “somewhere in the Indian Ocean”.
Australia has been searching in the vicinity of the Indian Ocean 2,500km southwest of Perth in Western Australia since Thursday, after Abbott announced the discovery of satellite images that showed possible debris from the plane.
MAS yesterday communicated to the families of passengers and crew on board the flight that it assumed that the plane was lost with no survivors.
The airline repeated the position during the press conference today, saying that it had to make that conclusion given the 17 days that have passed since the plane disappeared.
Ahmad Jauhari stressed that MAS's top priority was to provide “comprehensive” support programmes for the families of those who were on board MH370, and that over 700 caregivers are currently helping families through this “painful period.”
He added that MAS was also preparing to make additional payments on top of the US$5,000 (RM16,513) in financial support offered to the families of all who flew on the missing plane, should the need arise.