Malaysia Air Exec: The Story of That Night

Hugh Dunleavy offers in-depth interview
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jun 24, 2014 8:55 AM CDT
Hugh Dunleavy, commercial director of Malaysia Airlines, attends a press conference for relatives of Chinese passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in a hotel in Beijing, March 14, 2014.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

(Newser) – After Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing, the airline's commercial boss and his team were on overdrive: They didn't sleep for 48 hours as they desperately tried to find the plane and field concerns from victims' relatives at the same time. Hugh Dunleavy gives a harrowing account of the first night of the crisis to London's Evening Standard: "People say, ‘Why didn’t you work quicker?'" he notes. "But you’re calling pilots, explaining the situation, waiting for them to send out pings, doing the same to the next plane, then the next, and it’s four in the morning, you don’t have 50 people in the office, only a couple."

"An hour goes by frighteningly quickly—you realize that the missing plane is now another 600 miles somewhere else," Dunleavy says. Meanwhile, he was dealing with "conspiracy theories" and rumors on social media ("We lost an hour" on a rumor the plane had landed in Nanning, China). When the media gathered in Beijing, 130 airline executives needed visas to meet them. After 32 hours, Dunleavy told relatives they should "be prepared for the worst," and they began throwing things; police refused to intervene, saying it was a normal part of their culture. Will the plane ever be found? Here's Dunleavy's take:

  • "Something untoward happened to that plane. I think it made a turn to come back, then a sequence of events overtook it, and it was unable to return to base. I believe it’s somewhere in the south Indian Ocean. But when (a plane) hits the ocean, it’s like hitting concrete. The wreckage could be spread over a big area … I think it could take a really long time to find. We’re talking decades."

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