Malaysia Airlines has denied that an expired battery in the underwater locator beacon would have made a difference in the search for missing Flight MH370.
It comes a day after the Malaysian government released an interim report into the plane’s disappearance a year ago, revealing that the battery had not been replaced after expiring in December 2012.
Malaysia Airlines (MAS) said in a statement published on Monday that a similar beacon was also installed with the solid state cockpit voice recorder (SSCVR) and its battery life was still good.
The oversight was blamed on a failure to properly update a computer system in the engineering department of Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation said in Sunday’s report.
Malaysia’s transport ministry said in a statement it was reviewing the interim report and pledged to take “stern action”, without giving further details.
“In no manner does the data point to how or why MH370 went missing,” the statement added.
But lawyers acting for some of the families have said that the revelation could be key in any legal action against the airline.
US law firm Kreindler & Kreindler LP, which is representing around 20 families, had said the expired battery was “potentially very significant” in determining compensation if it had hurt the search for the missing plane.
“This airline, which allowed its crew and plane to fly with expired batteries on critical equipment, continues to reject offering any kind of meaningful settlement to the families without them first proving the losses they suffered, without any actual evidence of a crash,” Kreindler & Kreindler LP aviation attorney Justin Green said in an email to Reuters.
“The airline … even more clearly now may be responsible for the unsuccessful search for this plane.”
Flight MH370 vanished from radar screens shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, en route to Beijing, on March 8, 2014.
No trace has been found of the plane or the 239 people on board, despite one of the largest maritime search operations in history.
Australia is leading the international search team, which has been scouring a vast area of the Indian Ocean, off the country’s west coast.
Among the relatives of the passengers and crew, some want the airline punished. Above all they want the search to continue.
“Don’t stop searching, we all want to know what happened,” said one relative, Intan Maizura Othman.
“As long as there is no legitimate proof, I still have high hope that my son is alive… Inshallah (God willing),” said one victim’s father, Hasnan Kamaruddin.
The report contained no other significant information and has been dismissed by the families.
A year after the Boeing’s disappearance, tributes have been paid to the victims in Malaysia and in China. Of the 227 passengers on board, 152 were Chinese nationals.
Dozens of family members gathered at the Lama Temple in Beijing on Sunday to commemorate the first anniversary of the plane’s disappearance.
Victims’ families have criticised Chinese and Malaysian authorities for not doing more to help them determine the fate of their loved ones.