Asiana Airlines Fined $500,000 For Failing to Help Families of Crash Victims

The airline failed to provide information and assistance for families of crash victims under a federal law, in some cases for up to five days. 

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Asiana Airlines Inc has been fined $500,000 by U.S. regulators after failing to provide assistance to families of victims who died in the July plane crash, Reuters reports. Three people died and more than 180 were injured when the Boeing 777 plane was torn open and burst into flames after hitting a seawall short of the runway at the San Francisco airport.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said this is the first time it has had to issue a fine under a federal law that requires foreign airlines to provide passengers and their families with certain services in the event of a crash.

"Asiana's response to the crash of flight 214 indicates that the carrier failed to commit sufficient resources to carry out its family assistance plan," the U.S. Department of Transportation said in a statement. The "family assistance plan" for foreign airlines includes publicizing a phone number where family members can call for information, and informing families as soon as passengers are identified.

Asiana Airlines failed on a number of counts to provide adequate information to families of passengers under the federal statute. For almost a day after the crash, the airline didn't widely publicize the phone number where relatives could get information, the DOT said. As NBC News reports, only the airline’s toll-free reservation number was generally available.

Asiana Airlines also took two full days to contact three-quarters of the flight’s passengers, with some families having to wait five days until after the crash, according to the DOT. It also took Asiana five days to gather the resources needed to carry out its responsibilities under federal law.

"In the very rare event of a crash, airlines have a responsibility to provide their full support to help passengers and their families by following all the elements of their family assistance plans," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement."The last thing families and passengers should have to worry about at such a stressful time is how to get information from their carrier."

To make matters worse, the real news about the crash was at times overshadowed by the actions of a swiftly-fired intern, who gave news KTVU-TV news anchors a list of racist and fake names of the plane’s supposed pilots. And don’t forget the horribly misguided attempts to talk about the crash, including a newspaper headline that should be wiped from the face of the earth.

The National Transportation and Safety Board continues to investigate the crash.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.