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Impact on Brand Malaysia

The tragic disappearance of Malaysia Airlines’ wide bodied Boeing 777 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing last month seems destined to remain one of aviation history’s most intriguing mysteries. Not in recent memory has an aviation incident dominated the global media headlines in the manner that the ill fated flight MH 370 has. Its disappearance has been a top story in bulletin after news bulletin for more than twenty straight days and nights. Three weeks after its most mysterious disappearance, investigators are no closer to deciphering the actual cause of the vanishing aircraft than they were when it was first reported missing. Unfortunately for all concerned, particularly for the loved ones of the 239 passengers onboard, the agonising wait for answers is likely to continue for months, if not years.

And then there is the possibility that the mystery may never be completely solved. The story of flight MH 370, when it is finally written, is bound to be the envy of even the most inventive of bestselling thriller writers, amply illustrating the old adage that truth is often stranger than fiction. As well as the mystery of the highly unlikely disappearance of what has proven to be one of the safest aircraft ever built, the intrigue that surrounds the many swirling unproven theories on the cause ensures that the lore of this vanished flight will long be remembered.

Adding to the escalating mystery and tension and further confounding the situation was the airline and the Malaysian Government’s extraordinarily poor handling of the crisis, especially on the communications front. Delayed reporting, conflicting details, contradicting information, backtracking, insensitive dealings with the passengers’ loved ones snowballed into a gigantic public relations disaster for both the airline and the country.

As live footage of bumbling officials replying to media queries, violently protesting passengers’ relatives and their handling by Malaysian authorities flashed instantaneously across the globe, both airline and the Government seemed clueless about how to face up credibly to the international community. The incident exposed Malaysia’s ill preparedness to deal with such an emergency. Used to a pliable, unquestioning media, the spokespersons were all at sea attempting to answer the global media’s justifiably prying questions.

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