By Keith Laing - 03/19/14 10:41 AM EDT
Malaysia Airlines said Wednesday that the relatives of passengers who were onboard its flight that disappeared nearly two weeks ago are “at the center of every action” during the search for the plane.
The comments follow reports that relatives of Chinese passengers who were onboard the plane are planning to engage in a hunger strike to protest conflicting reports about the potential whereabouts of the flight.
Malaysia Air pleaded for patience with locating the missing airplane.
Malaysia Air’s Flight 370 was last seen by air traffic controllers on March 7. The plane was carrying 239 people at the time of its disappearance, most of whom were said to be Chinese citizens.
Malaysian officials have been criticized for their handling of the search for the plane. Initial search and rescue efforts were concerted on waters in the Gulf of Thailand, where the plane’s pilots last contacted air traffic controllers.
Officials later came to believe the plane continued flying for several hours with its radar equipment turned off, based on signals that were communicated via satellite by the jet’s engines.
U.S. State Department officials have confirmed that at least three of the passengers who were on board the airplane were American citizens.
The U.S. has sent officials from agencies such as the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense to assist with the search.