Six Years After Asiana Crash Landing In San Francisco The Airline Now Has To Accept A Heavy Handed Penalty – 45 Day Route Suspension!

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A whole six years after the fateful flight of Asiana OZ214, South Korea’s Supreme Court had affirmed earlier rulings and a decision by it’s aviation authorities that as punishment for the accident Asiana has to suspend it’s San Francisco route for 45 days.

The penalty is expected to cost the airline millions in revenue and creates a real headache to passengers as they require rebooking to another connection which might prove difficult especially if award tickets are involved.

This accident was indeed tragic as one of the three deceased passengers was determined to have been killed by a fire truck during the rescue operation, a matter which has been subject to legal action and subsequent settlement between the family of the deceased teenager and the City of San Francisco.

Reuters has now reported that all attempts by Asiana to have the penalty decision of the regulator overturned have failed and the carrier has to make preparations accordingly.

South Korea’s Supreme Court upheld on Thursday a government decision to suspend Asiana Airlines’ Incheon-San Francisco route for 45 days, adding to the debt-ridden carrier’s headaches as it battles rising competition and falling demand.

The transport ministry suspended Asiana Airlines’ once-daily U.S. bound flight as a penalty linked to its deadly plane crash in San Francisco in 2013. Asiana had sought a court injunction against the measure.

The Supreme Court said insufficient staff training was the main cause of the crash and the government’s punishment was legitimate.

The flight ban will be implemented before the end of February, the transport ministry said in a statement.

Asiana would discuss the exact timing of the suspension with authorities, a company spokesman said, adding the punishment would cost it about 11 billion won ($9.3 million) in lost sales.

South Korea’s transport ministry plans to request other airlines to use bigger aircraft for their San Francisco route during the suspension of Asiana flights, a ministry official said, requesting anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to media. …

Asiana Airlines flight 214 crashed in San Francisco in 2013 when the plane’s tail struck a seawall short of the runway, killing three teenage passengers from China and injuring more than 180 out of about 300 people on board.

The reason it took so long to come to this point is that for obvious reasons Asiana went through several appeals processes to have the penalty decision overturned. With the highest court now having judged the matter final there is no further choice other than to oblige and make necessary arrangements.

When will the route be suspended?

Routes Online has published details about the suspension which will apparently be March 3,2020 – April 15, 2020.

Asiana Airlines in the last 24-48 hours closed reservation for Seoul Incheon – San Francisco route, as South Korean Supreme Court upheld the 45-day suspension order (reported by Reuters on 16OCT19). The Star Alliance carrier will temporary suspend the service from 03MAR20 to 16APR20, as reservation is no longer available during this period.

The airline operates Airbus A350-900XWB aircraft on this route. Following schedule is effective 17APR20.

OZ212 ICN2040 – 1500SFO 359 D
OZ211 SFO2330 – 0430+2ICN 359 D

Not sure how these dates correspond to the information of the transport ministry saying that the suspension will take place before February.

For passengers there will be several issues with this. The airline isn’t required to rebook the customer to a different flight that far out though many possibly will, especially if the ticket is issued on non-Asiana stock (thinking United etc).

Passengers with tickets in the respective period are definitely entitled to a refund but that’s sometimes easier said than done especially if part of the ticket has already been flown. Award ticket holders might seek for a rerouting with the frequent flyer program that issued that award however I’d expect availability to be scarce.

Could Asiana have done anything to avert this situation?

Yes and no. Of course a company appeals such a decision until there are no other choices but since tickets are being sold 360 days in advance what could have possibly been done is to suspend the route starting 360 days out and not sell any tickets during that period in the first place. This way customers wouldn’t be affected.

Asiana can’t just fly another route as this would require applying for one and having it approved by the authorities, something which wouldn’t go through given the circumstances. Getting a wetlease to operate this route isn’t feasible either as it would technically still be an Asiana flight so gaming the system isn’t an option – the government isn’t stupid!

Conclusion

This was a heavy handed decision by the Korean Aviation Authorities after an incident that was ultimately judged as the result of pilot error. Interestingly enough Korean Air never received such harsh sentences in the past and their track record isn’t very flattering at all.

That being said there are very little options now for both airline and passengers. If affected I’d call the ticketing carrier and request a rerouting. Usually when a route has been cancelled there is an automatic error message in the ticket telling the agent that the flight is no longer available due to XYZ. If lucky they will offer a rerouting on a partner airline though that most likely won’t be direct. There is only United flying between SFO and Seoul as part of Star Alliance aside from Asiana.

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