Malaysia's airline workers express horror and anger at fate of flight MH17

The president of the country's national union of flight attendants calls the death of all 298 people on board mass murder

Malaysia's airline workers have reacted with horror and anger at the fate of flight MH17, with officials saying the industry may take years to recover from two such trauamtic incidents in such a short space of time.

The National Union of Flight Attendants held a brief press conference at the Sama-Sama hotel at Kuala Lumpur international airport on Saturday evening, and said they were "deeply sad and shocked" by the news that MH17 had likely been shot down by separatists.

"The national union condemns how the aircraft was shot down in broad daylight by separatists in Ukraine … it is simply unacceptable," said its president, Ismail Nasaruddin. He called the death of all 298 people on board "mass murder".

Malaysia was still reeling from the loss of MH370, he said, which disappeared from radar screens on 8 March and has not yet been found.

"Here we go again with [another in a] series of tragic incidents," he said. "This is something I think a lot of our crew members are unable to accept at this moment in time … we cannot believe that this incident could happen in such a short period and it happened to Malaysia Airlines again."

The union lost 21 members in the two incidents, and as a result some flight attendants are now so psychologically disturbed that they no longer want to fly.

"We are very sad, very depressed," Ismail said of the union as a whole. "The crew members [have been] demoralised by this tragic incident."

Lawyers from an international legal firm specialising in aviation claims told the Guardian that hardly any of the family members of those on board MH370 had been interested in filing insurance claims against Boeing, which operates the 777 aircraft, because they still hoped their loved ones were alive.

Only one family member has filed a claim, which could result in compensation of between $450,000 (£263,000) and $1m, since the plane disappeared from radar screens. It is presumed to have crashed in the South Indian Ocean.

"We're trying to encourage people to make a claim because they've lost family members who earned money and maybe they have parents who are ill or young children who will go to college, and who will pay for that?" said one of the lawyers, who spoke anonymously because she was not permitted to speak to the media.

"But they say, 'They're still alive, they'll be back one day.' Even if they are alive and they come back, they can still keep the money, we tell them. But they think if they take the money then it means their relative is dead, and they just want their loved ones back."


Kate Hodal in Kuala Lumpur

The GuardianTramp

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