‘Too soon’ for submarine search in hunt for MH370

The missing Malaysian Airlines plane went down in the Indian Ocean, but it's too early to use submarines to begin looking for the wreckage, authorities said on Monday.

'Too soon' for submarine search in hunt for MH370
Authorities believe the missing Malaysia Airlines plane went down in the Indian Ocean. Photo: Australian Defence/AFP

French investigators said on Monday it was too soon to consider launching undersea searches for the remains of the Malaysia Airlines jet that officials said went down in the Indian Ocean.

France's BEA accident investigation service, which had sent three investigators to Kuala Lumpur, said the "extremely vast areas (involved) do not make it possible at this stage to consider undersea searches.

The announcement came in the hours that followed word from Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak that Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 "ended in the southern Indian Ocean."

This apparent solution of the enigma of whether the plane had in fact crashed came courtesy of analysis of satellite data done by British firm Inmarsat. MH370 went missing on March 8th en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard

"Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the UK Air Accidents Investigations Branch have concluded that MH370's…last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth," the prime minister's statement said.

"This is a remote location, far from any landing sites. It is therefore with great sadness that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the Southern Indian Ocean," he continued.

Malaysia, which later revealed the plane turned back over the Malaysian peninsula after losing contact, has enlisted 25 other countries to help hunt for the plane.

Efforts in recent days have focused on the coast off Australia after previous satellite images of large objects there were released, and a plane spotted a wooden cargo pallet, along with some belts or straps.

It said its investigators, who had returned from Kuala Lumpur at the weekend, had discussed possible techniques for undersea searches with Malaysian authorities.

In particular they discussed "their experience… acquired during then search between 2009 and 2011 for the wreckage of Rio-Paris flight AF447," it said.

It took 23 months for BEA investigators to find the wreckage of the Air France flight after it went down in the Atlantic in 2009.

Malaysia on Monday said the MH370, which went missing more than two weeks ago, crashed in the Indian Ocean, but shed no light on the mystery of why it veered from its intended course.

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All flights to be grounded on Friday night on collapsed French airline

France's second-largest airline Aigle Azur, which went into receivership this week, plans to cancel all flights starting Friday night as it seeks a takeover bid to save the company, according to an internal document seen by AFP on Thursday.

All flights to be grounded on Friday night on collapsed French airline
Photo: AFP

Aigle Azur had warned earlier that some flights would be halted and all ticket sales suspended from September 10th, the day following a deadline for submitting bids to acquire the airline.

“The company's financial situation and the resulting operational difficulties do not allow us to ensure flights after the evening of September 6th,” according to a statement addressed to employees.

“If you take a flight after September 6th, 2019, whatever the airport of departure this flight is cancelled. You will have to buy another return ticket,” the carrier said.

Aigle Azul, which said it would run 44 flights on Friday, mainly to Algeria, urged affected passengers to check on their existing insurance – notably via their credit card provider – for reimbursement.

It also told travellers who had booked through a travel agency to approach them for advice on the redress they were entitled to.

It said the company had been “forced to resort” to an “unfortunate option that puts out clients, our teams and our partners in great difficulty.”

“The search for takeover offers is continuing actively,” it added.

The airline had initially pledged to maintain operations after filing for bankruptcy protection on Monday, following years of losing millions of euros.

The move came after a shareholder coup ousted chief executive Frantz Yvelin last week, accusing him of making “strategic mistakes over the past two years.”

Destinations in Algeria make up half of Aigle Azur's operations, and the company posted revenues of €300 million last year after transporting some 1.9 million passengers.

But it wasn't enough to stem heavy losses that last month prompted the airline to announce plans to sell its Portugal routes to low-cost rival Vueling.

Its shareholders are now hoping for a white-knight offer for the airline and its 1,150 employees, including some 350 based in Algeria.

The largest shareholder in Aigle Azur is the Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which owns Hainan Airlines, with a 49 percent stake.

David Neeleman, an American airline entrepreneur whose companies include JetBlue and TAP Air Portugal, owns 32 percent, and French businessman Gerard Houa owns 19 percent.