Malaysia Airlines: MH370 families should head home

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In this March 25, 2014 photo, Chinese relatives of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, flight MH370, shout in protest as they march towards the Malaysia embassy in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

In this March 25, 2014 photo, Chinese relatives of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, flight MH370, shout in protest as they march towards the Malaysia embassy in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – Malaysia Airlines on Thursday advised relatives of passengers who were aboard Flight 370 to move out of hotels and return home to wait for news on the search for the missing plane.

Since the Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8, the airline has been putting the relatives up in hotels, where they’ve been briefed on the search. But the airline said in a statement Thursday that it would close its family assistance centers around the world by May 7, and that the families should receive search updates from “the comfort of their own homes.”

The airline said that it would establish family support centers in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, and that it would keep in close touch with the relatives through means including phone calls and meetings.

Malaysia Airlines also said it would soon make advanced compensation payments to the relatives.

The plane vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and most of the 227 passengers were Chinese.

No wreckage from the plane has been found, and an aerial search for surface debris ended Monday after six weeks of fruitless hunting. An unmanned sub is continuing to search underwater in an area of the southern Indian Ocean where sounds consistent with a plane’s black box were detected in early April. Additional equipment is expected to be brought in within the next few weeks to scour an expanded underwater area.

The head of the search effort has predicted that the search could drag on for as long as a year.

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