LOS ANGELES (AP) — In the first penalty of its kind, federal transportation officials on Tuesday docked Asiana Airlines $500,000 for failing to promptly contact passengers' families and keep them informed about their loved ones after a deadly crash last year at San Francisco International airport.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said it took the South Korean airline five days to contact the families of all 291 passengers. In addition, a required crash hotline was initially routed to an automated reservations line.
Never before has the department concluded that an airline broke U.S. laws requiring prompt and generous assistance to the loved ones of crash victims.
Three people died and dozens were injured on July 6 when Asiana Flight 214 clipped a seawall while landing. One of the victims, a 16-year-old girl, apparently survived being ejected onto the tarmac, only to be run over by a fire truck in the post-crash confusion.
Many of the families live in South Korea or China, meaning the airline was their main source of information on the crash half a world away.
"The last thing families and passengers should have to worry about at such a stressful time is how to get information from their carrier," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a prepared statement.
Under a consent order the airline signed with the department, Asiana will pay a $400,000 fine and get a $100,000 credit for sponsoring industry-wide conferences and training sessions through 2015 to discuss lessons learned from the situation.
In a statement emailed to The Associated Press, Asiana spokeswoman Hyomin Lee said the airline "provided extensive support to the passengers and their families following the accident and will continue to do so."
Asiana said in the consent order that its response immediately after the crash was slowed because it occurred on a holiday weekend when staffing was short.
The airline also said it was not alone among foreign airlines with "few trained employees to attend to post-accident responsibilities," and it noted that it had assigned a special representative to each passenger and family within a few days of the crash; flown in family members from overseas; and provided professional crisis counseling through the Red Cross.
The consent order also laid out findings from the Department of Transportation's investigation. It said:
Continue reading this story on the...