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MH370: Chinese kin angry that MAS will stop providing hotel stays
Publication Date : 02-05-2014
Chinese families expressed anger and disappointment yesterday at news that Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will stop providing hotel accommodations for the relatives of passengers on board the missing Flight MH370 by next Wednesday.
Their anger stems mainly from what they claim was a lack of consultation with relatives about the move, which was part of a decision announced by MAS yesterday to close its Family Assistance Centres in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.
"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," the airline said in a statement.
Family members interviewed said the move felt like a rush to bring closure to the plane's disappearance, despite the fact that no trace of wreckage has been found yet.
Many said they were unwilling to move out by the deadline and were considering their next course of action.
"Of course we are very angry, there was no discussion with us before this decision was made. It was a one-sided affair," said Yang Rong, a Hebei native staying at Metropark Lido Hotel. Her husband was on the ill-fated flight.
"We are hoping to be able to negotiate an alternative with them that most of the relatives can also agree on."
This alternative could mean moving the family members to another hotel on the outskirts of Beijing or reducing the number of family members being put up to just one per passenger.
But even if that falls through, Yang said that she - like many of the other relatives - intends to remain in Beijing. She is even willing to find work in the Chinese capital if she has to, she added.
Wen Wancheng, whose 34-year-old son was also on the plane, told The Straits Times: "We don't mind being put up at another hotel farther out, but we would still like to be together so that it's easier for us to receive updates.
"I believe my only son is still alive and I want to be as close to the information source as possible."
MAS has been housing the family members - two hotel rooms per passenger - in four-star hotels here since March 8, and is also covering all their meal and travel expenses.
In addition, it has given 31,000 yuan (US$5,000) to each family.
The airline had also provided psychiatric support at the hotels for families trying to cope with their losses.
MAS said it would establish centres in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur, Agence France-Presse reported, to provide "follow-up support and services" but gave no further specifics.
But relatives' tempers have repeatedly flared, with Chinese families regularly lashing out at officials from the Malaysian government and the airline over their inability to explain the plane's disappearance.
MAS said last week that 10 of its staff were held against their will for more than 10 hours at the Metropark Lido Hotel by angry relatives.
The Malaysian carrier also said in its announcement yesterday that it would soon make advance compensation payments to the next-of-kin of the 239 people on board the plane, as part of a final package to be agreed on later.
But this, too, did not sit well with the loved ones of the passengers on the plane.
"None of the family members want to talk about compensation because we believe that they are still alive," said Yang. "It's only MAS that keeps on bringing this up because it wishes to have this case closed."