Australia has said it remains committed to searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 despite recent claims that the jet would be declared officially "lost" by the end of the year.
The announcement follows an earlier report made by Malaysia Airlines commercial director Hugh Dunleavy, who further flared up tensions between the airline and the families of those on board the missing flight by telling a New Zealand newspaper that family would be compensated "once we've had an official loss recorded".
Dunleavy also added Australia and Malaysia would declare the plane lost by the end of 2014, ending a major undersea search which began soon after the flight disappeared over the Indian Ocean on March 8, with 239 people on board.
"'The talk has been that the search has been futile so far and it's unlikely to bring anything,' he said, according to the DailyMail.
In response, next-of-kin activist group Voice 370 said Dunleavy's "unilateral declaration brings intense agony and confusion to family members and makes us lose faith in the search effort".
Malaysia Airlines quickly clarified that Dunleavy's "great disturbing" statement was based on his personal opinion and did not reflect the airline's sentiment. The Airlines added that the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) running the MH370 search was only providing official updates. JACC also issued its own statement and reassured families that Australia will continue to search for any sign of the plane and its passengers on behalf of Malaysia.
"Australia continues to lead the search for MH370 on behalf of Malaysia and remains committed to providing all necessary assistance in the search for the aircraft," the JACC said.
Australia has spent a reported $90 million in search of the plane which is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean off western Australia.
Thus far, the underwater search has turned up no results, causing many to insist that there is great possibility that the plane did not go down into the sea.
"The thought of it landing somewhere else is not impossible, as we have not found a single debris that could be linked to MH370,' sources within the International Investigation Team have said, adding that search teams may need to "redirect" their efforts if the underwater search remains fruitless.
Meanwhile, devastated families wait for closure and continue to hold on to the hope that they will learn the truth about the fate of MH370.
"We are in limbo, we don't know anything because we still haven't heard anything about MH370," said Jacquita Gonzalez, wife of MH370 in-flight supervisor Patrick Francis Gomez.
"We also want closure, we just want to know what happened."