Ten Malaysia Airlines staff were held at a Beijing hotel against their will for hours by Chinese relatives of flight MH370 passengers, the airline said yesterday.
The airline employees were "barred from leaving" a ballroom for more than 10 hours on Thursday, and another staff member was kicked in the leg in a confrontation two days earlier, the airline said.
Tempers have repeatedly flared at the Lido Hotel, where Chinese relatives have been put up by the airline since the plane vanished, increasingly lashing out in briefings as Malaysian officials and the flag carrier have been unable to explain the plane's disappearance.
"Malaysia Airlines confirms that its staff were held at the Lido Hotel ballroom in Beijing by the family members of MH370 as the families expressed dissatisfaction in obtaining details of the missing aircraft," the airline said.
The more than 200 family members were incensed when a Malaysian government official did not come to brief them on Thursday, and the meeting descended into chaos as relatives angrily confronted airline staff.
An airline spokesman said "the main MAS officials were barred from leaving the ballroom" as about 60 family members left for the Malaysian embassy to demand information from government officials.
The relatives who went to the embassy remained there in an overnight protest, two participants said yesterday.
"We are so tired, as this is the 49th day. We didn't sleep the whole night, but we are still angry. No update has been made and our loved ones are still missing," a family representative said.
The carrier also said a Malaysia Airlines security supervisor was "kicked in the left knee" by an "aggressive" Chinese family member at the hotel on Tuesday.
About two-thirds of the 239 passengers aboard the missing plane came from China. Relatives have for weeks complained about the handling of the search for the plane, which vanished on March 8.
It disappeared from radar on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is believed to have crashed far out in the Indian Ocean.
A multi-national search, however, has failed to find any debris despite weeks of looking.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said yesterday his country has asked Malaysia to "take seriously" the families' grievances, while urging families to behave in a "rational way".
In an effort to be transparent, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak promised that a preliminary report submitted to the United Nations' aviation body would be released publicly.
"In the name of transparency, we will release the report next week," he told CNN in an interview late on Thursday.
Anthony Brickhouse, a member of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators, said the report was unlikely to contain anything startling.
"This preliminary report is really just a run-down of what you know so far," he said.
A difficult underwater search of the suspected crash site, using a mini-submarine equipped with a sonar device, is nearing completion with no trace of the plane found.