Malaysia Airlines Texts Family Members: ‘We Have to Assume’ That MH370 Crashed in the Indian Ocean

In the early stages of the long and frustrating story of flight 370, we reviewed Malaysia Airlines‘ crisis response and gave the company a hesitant thumbs up: all boxes checked, all media assets dedicated 24/7 to news about the airplane.

This morning, however, brought a move that will almost certainly satisfy no one. As teams around the world race to find definitive evidence of the flight’s fate, the Malaysian government and the company itself told the media and families of MH370 passengers that the case is effectively closed. Here’s the text, sent in English, to Chinese relatives of flight 370 passengers:

We think most readers will agree that this might not have been the most personal way to make such an announcement.

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak’s statement, made directly after the text:

In summary, while no evidence directly linked to the flight has been recovered from the Indian Ocean at this time, unspecified technologies used by British aviation researchers have limited the once-long list of possible outcomes for MH370 to one: it flew well off-course into an area of open water in which it would not have been able to land safely. The process of elimination leaves only one possibility.

While Razak promised a more extensive press conference tomorrow, his announcement sounds a lot like “Trust us; we’ll explain tomorrow”. And the response has, unsurprisingly, been negative.

The highly conditional “we have to assume” aspect of these public statements strikes us as a strange choice.

Of course the concerns of passengers’ families take precedence. But, while Razak strongly implies that conclusive evidence is not yet ready for public review, we can question the wisdom of issuing such statements at this time.

One undeniable point: the messages released today offered little in the way of clarity. For that, we have no choice but to continue waiting.

UPDATE: The airline released a follow-up on the texts:

“…we informed the majority of the families in advance of the Prime Minister’s statement in person and by telephone. SMSs were used only as an additional means of communicating with the families.”