Some sobbed, while others just held their faces in their hands or gazed blankly ahead, numbed by the day’s events.
While rescuers attempted to locate missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, friends and family of those on board struggled to comprehend how an aeroplane containing loved ones could seemingly vanish off the face of the earth.
As press gathered at both airports, authorities did their best to keep worried relatives out of the spotlight.
"My son, my son", one person wailed from a room at the Beijing hotel where loved ones were taken to await news.
"What am I going to do?"
On Sunday, a young man from Hebei province who was waiting anxiously in the Lido Hotel burst into brief excitement after ringing the cell phone of his brother, who is among the 239 onboard.
Both times the cell phone rang, but went silent after a few seconds, the man, in his twenties, told the South China Morning Post. He said he ushed to Malaysia Airlines officials, saying there might still be some hope.
Other family members in the hotel room then began frantically dialling the cell phones of their loved ones.
However, when the man rang the cell phone for a third time, there was no response.
Another man said his 60-year-old wife had been on board the flight as part of a 20-strong tour group.
Anxious family members were kept in a hotel in northeast of Beijing since early afternoon, and emotions flared as they could not talk to any officials or airline staff, despite hours of waiting.
The Beijing-bound plane, with 239 passengers and crew on board, went missing hours after it took off from Kuala Lumpur.
More than 100 family members of passengers swarmed to the Lido Hotel after the authorities put up a notice online and at the airport instructing them to go to there.
A man whose mother was part of a travel group for the elderly spoke of his anguish after he rushed to the Malaysia Airlines office at the airport in the morning and was made to wait two hours before being asked to go to the hotel. At the time of writing, he said nobody from the airline had spoken to him.
Some passengers became emotional and demanded to meet “people in charge”, asking for arrangements to be made to go to Vietnam, but the only response they say they received from hotel staff was to go back to their rooms.
Zhai Le was waiting for her friends, a couple who were on their way back to the Chinese capital on the flight, the Associated Press reported. She said she was very concerned because she hadn’t been able to reach them.
In Kuala Lumpur, family members gathered at the airport but were kept away from reporters.
Distraught relatives trickled in to a designated waiting area for loved ones, escorted by authorities.
“They gave us no information so far,” complained one man, who said his niece and her husband were on the flight for a one-week holiday in China.
CEO of Malaysia Airlines Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said earlier that the passengers’ and crew members’ next of kin were being informed of the incident.
"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," he said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members."
THE AGONISING WAIT FOR NEWS
12.41am: Flight 370 takes off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing
2.40am: Boeing 777-200ER loses contact with Subang air traffic control, Malaysia Airlines says
6.30am: Flight 370 expected to land at Beijing Capital International Airport
7.24am: Malaysia Airlines issues statement saying it lost contact with flight
8.30am: Flight 370’s fuel would have run out, airline says
12.00pm: Vietnamese officials deny local media reports a signal has been picked up from Flight 370 near Cape Ca Mau.
12.37pm: Vietnamese media quotes Navy Admiral Ngo Van Phat as saying plane crashed 246 kilometres south of Phu Quoc Island.
2.10pm: Spokeswoman for Malaysia Airlines denies to the Post Vietnamese crash reports.