What Is Passenger’s Life Worth? Case AirAsia QZ8501

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Now that search teams have maybe found part of the plane and they are picking up the bodies from the sea, the next stage seems to be discussing about the compensation that the crash victims families are going to get.

I was first watching CNN’s Quest Means business that had a sticker that the compensation would be $24,000 and then the Bloomberg News had a longer piece with aviation lawyer that is worth a watch.

You can access the WSJ piece here and the Bloomberg one here.

Both of these pieces were based on the WSJ story that AirAsia had made initial compensation offers to some victims’ families offering them $24,000.

The airline operating the flight was Indonesia AirAsia and the country hasn’t signed the Montreal convention that would have awarded roughly minimum of $170,000 per passenger. The country has only signed the Warsaw one that sets the compensation at $8,300, although airlines and their insurers are free to pay more.

Here an excerpt from WSJ:

David Thejakusuma said AirAsia offered 300 million rupiah ($23,850) for each of the seven members of his family who perished. The seven included his sister and mother, who were among 162 people on the plane that crashed in the Java Sea on Dec. 28.

“I didn’t sign it,” he said of what he described as a request by the airline to accept the compensation.

The father of another victim, who hasn’t received the offer but has viewed it, expressed confusion about the letter’s wording and the overall payment plan.

In a letter seen by The Wall Street Journal dated Jan. 2, AirAsia Indonesia stated, “We also feel your emotional and financial burden.”

The airline said in the letter that the “initial compensation is part of the overall” compensation that would be given to the family by AirAsia.

The letter was on AirAsia stationery with AirAsia Indonesia Chief Executive Sunu Widyatmoko’s name, but not his signature.

Conclusion

It never came to my mind that Indonesia hasn’t signed all the conventions that give the framework for compensation in case of disasters and more mundane baggage losses.

Let’s hope that Indonesia AirAsia and its insurers can come up with better settlement resolution for victims families, although nothing can obviously really cover the loss of lives.

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