China / Society

Families of MH370's passengers still hold out hope for news

By Zhu Xingxin,Cui Jia (China Daily) Updated: 2014-12-29 04:28

Families of MH370's passengers still hold out hope for news

Bai Jie, daughter of Hou Aiqin, a passenger on missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, reads some cards that were made by more than 40 people from Taiwan to give their wishes to those on the missing airline. Photo by ZHU XINGXIN / CHINA DAILY

The skies were clear in Malaysia late in the evening of March 7 as Hou Aiqin passed through the security checks at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. She was due to take Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, bound for Beijing, scheduled to take off at 1:41 am minutes on March 8.

As usual when she traveled overseas, the 45-year-old paused to select a gift for her husband. If everything went well, she would be at home in Beijing within six hours, but the Boeing 777-200, which was carrying 239 people, including 154 Chinese citizens, never arrived at its destination.

In December 2013, Hou decided to travel to Nepal as one of a group of 23 Chinese tourists. For the return journey, the group decided to split up because of a lack of discount tickets. The majority took China Southern Airlines Flight CZ3101 to Beijing via Guangzhou in Guangdong province, and a smaller group of nine flew to Kuala Lumpur to transfer to Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.

“I remember her calling to tell me that by transferring flights, her group would visit one more country than we would,” said Wang Wenjing, the leader of the group that took the China Southern flight to Beijing. “She called it ‘a perk’.”

Wang and the other 13 members of his party landed in Beijing at 11 am. It was then they learned that MH370, carrying Hou and eight other members of the group, had not arrived and was unaccounted for.

The lost love

According to data released by Malaysian Airlines, after climbing for 20 minutes, Flight MH370 attained cruising altitude, traveling at an airspeed of 867 kilometers per hour, 10 kilometers into its journey to Beijing.

At 1:21 am, when MH370 was in Vietnamese airspace, air traffic control at Tan So’n Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City lost contact with the plane. According to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, the aircraft’s communications system was switched off manually, but no one knows what actually happened because the plane never sent a distress signal.

At the same time, Hou’s husband, Bai Shuanfu, in Beijing said he woke suddenly. He said he was sure he had heard his wife whispering in his ear.

On March 6, the last evening of the trip to Nepal, Hou and Bai spent 30 minutes chatting on a videophone, saying how much they missed each other. Although they had been classmates at their high school in Shanxi province, Hou and Bai didn’t fall in love until later, when they were studying at separate colleges.

Despite opposition from their parents, Hou and Bai married almost as soon as they graduated from college. They soon started a family when Hou gave birth to their daughter. Bai said she was an amazing person who knew how to live life to the fullest.

Bai always wears the wristwatch his wife gave him as a gift when she traveled to Hong Kong five years ago. It brings him inner strength. On Nov 27, the couple’s wedding anniversary, Bai said that the most beautiful thing in life is not scenery, but love and affection. He can clearly recall the moment at this year’s Spring Festival when he and Hou put up paper-cut window decorations.

He’s still waiting for news of his wife: “I can persuade myself to understand, but I just can’t accept the truth.”

Living in memories

The friends and relatives of those missing on Flight MH370 still find it difficult to accept the fact that the flight “ended” in the waters of the southern Indian Ocean, west of Perth in Australia.

Now, the only thing they can do is to collect scraps of information about the errant plane. Some of the bereaved are bonding and have become friends in adversity.

The day before her ill-fated flight, Hou told Bai that she would be home soon, and that no beauty scenery in the world could compare with their home.

On the vast ocean, vessels from 26 countries and regions, including China, Malaysia, Australia, the United States, and Vietnam, are still searching for traces of Flight MH370. The initial search area has been constantly enlarged, from Thailand Bay, to the Strait of Malacca and then the southern Indian Ocean. The scale of the international operation is unprecedented.

The search for Flight MH370 is ongoing, not even stopping for the Christmas holidays. Recently, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released a computer-generated map of the ocean floor in the area of the search.

At 5:30 am on March 8, Bai and his daughter arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport to wait for Hou, who had been away from home for two weeks. When MH370 failed to arrive as scheduled at 6:30 am, their lives changed forever.

It’s now more than nine months since Flight MH370 disppeared, but Bai has never stopped waiting for his wife to bring back the souvenirs from her trip to Nepal. “I believe it’s a temporary separation, and I am prepared to wait my whole life for her to return,” he said.

Contact the writer at and

Hot Topics