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Malaysia Airlines has reassured family members of passengers on board missing flight MH370 that they will receive "fair and equitable compensation". The airline made the statement after a families' support group Voice370 accused the company of trying to avoid its financial responsibility to the next-of-kin.
The Boeing 777 was on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014 when it disappeared. Of the total 239 passengers and crew on board, 153 were Chinese nationals and six were Australians.
The airline had last week advised all family members to file claims before 8 March, 2016, under the two year deadline set by the Montreal Convention. However, Voice370 accused the company of hindering the compensation claiming progress after the government incorporated the national carrier into a new company.
Malaysia Airlines System Berhad, formerly a listed company on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange, was privatised by the country's sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad and rebranded as Malaysia Airlines Berhad last year. The airline lost two aircraft within a span of just a few months - MH370 which is yet to be found and MH17 which was shot down while flying across Ukraine on 17 July 2014..
Mohammad Faiz Azmi, who has been appointed by Khazanah to oversee the company's restructuring, reiterated in a statement last week of the airlines' "continued commitment to uphold all its obligations to those affected by the MH370 tragedy."
"Malaysia Airlines remains committed to continue engaging the next-of-kin in good faith with regard to ensuring a fair and equitable compensation. Malaysia Airlines has insurance coverage in place to meet its obligation to pay compensation to next-of-kin as per its obligations under application International Conventions and laws," the statement said.
Mohammad Faiz also dismissed claims by Voice370 that the administrator had rejected requests for legal proceedings by family members. The administrator said he had so far acceded to 96 requests for legal proceedings against the company.
"No requests have been rejected," he said, adding that 42 next-of-kin have so far collected "full compensation." He did not give details. Under international agreements, families automatically get compensation totalling around $160,000 per passenger.
They can however sue for more and Malaysia Airlines has to prove that it was not at fault for the disappearance of the aircraft. This is however difficult to do as the aircraft has not been found and there is no evidence to indicate what really took place.
So far, 43 people, nearly all Chinese nationals have filed claims in early February in New York. A Miami-based legal firm is also proceeding with various lawsuits involving nearly 200 next-of-kin from various countries, said attorney Roy Altman. These cases are against Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysia government as well as Boeing over possible aircraft malfunction.
Several US, Malaysian and Australian law firms have said that they have started filing law suits on behalf of dozens of relatives of the 239 people on board the missing aircraft. Any damages will be paid out by the flag carrier's insurer, German based Allianz, AFP noted.
Vocie370 has urged the Malaysian authorities to extend the time period for family members to file claims beyond the 8 March 2016. "We believe that Malaysia's use of the moratorium on law suits must be sparingly applied and restricted to the patently frivolous and vexatious cases, and not to lawsuits that families of MH370 passengers intent to pursue against the airline and the government and other connected parties."
Grace Subathirai Nathan, said in the Facebook page: "Giving up is not an option because today it's us but tomorrow it could be you. If we do not find this plane, we may never know what happened to it and we may not be able to prevent it from happening again."
Search On 2.0 is holding a day of remembrance on 6 March at 3-5pm local time at Publika Solaris Datamas, in Kuala Lumpur. The group is planning to start a "Search On" campaign with individual videos from family members used as a trailer for the campaign.
Australia reiterates search area will not be extended
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is undertaking the underwater search operations for the missing Boeing in the southern Indian Ocean has reiterated in a statement on 24 February that there will be no further expansion of the search area when the 120,000 square kilometres targeted area is searched. The search operations are expected to be completed by the middle of this year.
"In the absence of credible new information that leads to the identification of a specific location of the aircraft, governments have agreed that there will be no further expansion of the search area," the bureau said.
Martin Dolan, the bureau's chief commissioner told Sydney Morning Herald that if the aircraft is found, the flight recorders would be recovered. There is a plan to recover human remains but there are no plans to raise the whole aircraft. "I am hoping, although it will be a sad moment, that ... we have been successful in our search and as a result we have the sad news that we have located the last resting place of their loved ones," he said.
China families still seek return of loved ones
Separately, in an email dated 27 February, Chinese families of passengers on board the aircraft are still clinging on to hope that the passengers are still alive. In the email sent to IBTimes UK, they urged authorities to offer amnesty to the kidnappers.
"We renew our call for amnesty in exchange for the return of the missing [passengers] and we renew our call to all representative nations to support us," the email pleaded. The group also lambasted the official search operations, saying that it is based on falsified data.
"We expect to hear official pronouncements excusing the failure to find MH370, relabelling the disappearance a mystery," the group said.