KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 people lost contact with air traffic control early Saturday on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and international aviation authorities still had not located the jetliner several hours later.
The plane lost communication two hours into the flight over Vietnam at 1:20 a.m. , China’s official Xinhua News Agency said. The Vietnamese news Web site
VN Express said a Vietnamese search-and-rescue official reported that signals from the plane were detected about 140 miles southwest of Vietnam’s southernmost Ca Mau province.
Malaysia Airlines said it was working with authorities who had activated their search-and-rescue teams to locate the aircraft.
“Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew. Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support,” Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said in a statement.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members,” he added.
Fuad Sharuji, Malaysian Airlines’ vice president of operations control, told CNN that the plane was flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet and that the pilots reported no problem with the aircraft. He said the aircraft’s last communication was over the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.
Flight MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. Saturday and was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, Malaysia Airlines said.
The plane was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew members, the airline said. Passengers were from 14 countries, including 153 from China, 38 from Malaysia, seven Australians and four Americans.
At Beijing’s airport, authorities posted a notice asking relatives and friends of passengers to gather at a hotel about nine miles from the airport to wait for further information, and provided shuttle bus service.
Yahya, the airline CEO, said the 53-year-old pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, has more than 18,000 flying hours and has been flying for Malaysia Airlines since 1981. The first officer, 27-year-old Fariq Hamid, has about 2,800 hours of experience and has flown for the airline since 2007.
Malaysia Airlines’ last fatal incident was in 1995, when one of its planes crashed near the Malaysian city of Tawau, killing 34 people.
Malaysia Airlines has 15 Boeing 777-200 jets in its fleet of about 100 planes. The state-owned carrier last month reported its fourth straight quarterly loss.
The 777 had not had a fatal crash in its 20-year history until the Asiana crash in San Francisco in July 2013. All 16 crew members survived, but three of the 291 passengers, all teenage girls from China, were killed.