Malaka Of The Week: Malaysian Airlines

I usually play this feature for laughs but egregious malakatude can be terribly serious. There is no good way to notify people that their loved ones are presumed lost and dead, but Malaysian Airline may have selected one of the worst and most insensitive means possible:

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razar said Monday that a new analysis of electronic data shows that the flight of Malaysia airliner with 239 people aboard “ended” in a remote area of the Indian ocean and indicated there were no survivors.

Just before the prime minister spoke, Malaysian Airlines sent a brief text message to family members of the passengers saying, “(w)e have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived.”

If they were going to use an impersonal method, they should have let the Prime Minister’s press conference do the job. I think a phone call from the airline would have been less bad but getting a text makes it look as if they were unwilling to listen to bereaved family members and provide direct comfort.

As I said at the beginning of the post, there is no good way to convey such horrible news even if it merely confirms what has been apparent for quite some time. At least they didn’t tweet it, but it’s remarkable that a national airline didn’t retain a PR crisis specialist to help them navigate this highly sensitive matter. If they did, they had no clue as to what the hell they were doing.

Anyone have any thoughts as to how the notification should have been handled?

4 thoughts on “Malaka Of The Week: Malaysian Airlines

  1. Yes, I think you’re right about a personal phone call, assuming they have some sort of number. Preferably from someone in a position of authority, though I’d guess Malaysian Airlines works like most other corporations and would assign this to someone in middle management.
    Of course, one big issue with this tragedy was the immediate assumption of terrorism, despite the lack of evidence. I have a bad feeling about that — tragic accidents will never be completely eliminated, and the security-obsessed will use them (and any other excuse) to ramp up the police state even further.

  2. Since they had the family members in a room in a hotel, I think a representative from the airline should have gone there personally and given them the news personally BEFORE it was released for general public consumption. For family members not present, a phone call would have been best.

  3. From what I saw on the BBC, that may have been misreported. Apparently the airline people spoke with and called the relatives. They sent the text somewhat later and to make sure that all the people who needed to know heard before the news conference.
    If all that’s true, then it’s less malaka-y than it appears.

  4. So I’ve heard but the Chinese guvmint is actually allowing protests in Beijing. I write it off to instant analysis, it’s easy to think the worst of the airline and Malaysian guvmint since they’ve made a bad situation worse.

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