AirAsia 8501 – Warsaw, Montreal and Indonesia

The most recent update regarding the investigation of the crash of Air Asia 8501 focuses on the reported recovery of the CVR and FDR.  Clearly a welcome development as the search continues for the remainder of the fuselage and the victims.

Meanwhile, the failure to locate the rest of the wreckage is not the only source of frustration.  It turns out that while Indonesia signed the Warsaw Convention of 1929, it did not sign the Montreal Convention of 1999.  Inasmuch as the flight was an international one from Indonesia to Singapore, the passengers/families rights to recovery are controlled by international agreement and, in this case, by the Warsaw Convention.  The problem is that the limit of recovery under the Warsaw Convention is approximately $8,300.00 USD.  This is the reason most nations engaged in international air transportation, including Malaysia, agreed to the Montreal Convention which makes the carrier strictly liable for approximately the first $170,000 USD in damages.  In addition, the airline is liable for all damages unless the airline proves it did nothing wrong or that the crash was solely the result of the conduct of some other person(s).

Now there have been reports that AirAsia may be paying as much as $100,000 USD to each family, plus an initial payment of $24,000 USD, to cover their immediate financial needs.  If so, that would be consistent with the family/victim centered approach we have seen Mr. Fernandes and AirAsia take to date.  Certainly not the types of settlements entered into in the United States, but far better than $8,300.00.

We note the Indonesian Government is apparently investigating why AirAsia (and, reportedly, five other airlines) were flying on days of the week for which they had no authorization.  In noting this however, unless someone wants to conclude that a cause of the accident is that, had they not been flying that day, the accident would not have happened, this whole controversy about “days of the week” has nothing to do with causation.

Instead of focusing on this issue, maybe someone ought to conduct an investigation of the Indonesian Government and why their aviation system is blacklisted in many parts of the world; why they haven’t asked the NTSB for assistance, and why they never signed the Montreal Convention.  Those are questions which need answers.

(Originally posted January 15, 2015)

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