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Asiana Airlines penalized $500,000 over deadly crash

By JUSTIN PRITCHARD

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:

- Asiana generally "failed to commit sufficient resources to carry out its family assistance plan," and it wasn't until five days after the crash that its employees took over all of the carrier's responsibilities under U.S. law. In addition, the airline lacked translators and personnel trained in crash response.

- It took Asiana more than 18 hours to staff a reliable toll-free number for family members to call.

- The law requires family notification as soon as practical, but Asiana had contacted just three-quarters of families within two days.

In the late 1990s, after airlines were roundly criticized for ignoring desperate requests for information after crashes, Congress required carriers to dedicate significant resources to families of passengers.

Last fall, the AP reviewed plans filed by two dozen foreign airlines and found cases in which carriers had not updated their family assistance plans as required.

Since AP's story, several airlines have updated family assistance plans with the Department of Transportation. Among them is Asiana's bigger rival, Korean Air.

Many airlines invest in crash preparedness and family assistance planning, but a minority are "using lip service and euphemisms in their plans," said Robert A. Jensen, whose company has contracts with hundreds of airlines to help after an accident.

"It's time that some of the airlines that have been flying under the radar be held accountable," said Jensen, CEO of Kenyon International Emergency Services. "Somebody finally got caught."

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the crash.

Family members of some passengers have sued the airline, alleging coach passengers suffered more serious injuries than business class travelers because of different seatbelt configurations.

Lawsuits also claim that Asiana failed to properly train its pilots and that the plane's auto-throttle was inadequate.

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patriot1too February 27 2014 at 6:01 AM

They should never have allowed non American pilot to be flying an aircraft. They do not have the skills and verbal abilitys to fly an airplane.

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mccaskdgls February 27 2014 at 8:35 AM

The word abilities does not have a "y" in it. Before you start flying airplanes, learn how to spell.

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mav309 February 26 2014 at 10:14 AM

Maybe we need to issue a fine to US Air for landing a plane in the Hudson without a fishing permit

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slackwarerobert February 26 2014 at 9:49 AM

So why did it take 2 days for the FIRE department to get around to admitting it killed the girl, bet they also didn't notify the family of the poor girl they crushed.

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anvmd February 26 2014 at 8:57 AM

Right on. Why do other countries value "feelings" in such a negative light? Human life should be regarded in a more respectful manner.

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FRED February 26 2014 at 5:44 AM

So the feds get their cut, what a surprise. And how will that help make flying safer? Put the fear of a fine from the US, that will get them.

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John February 26 2014 at 5:15 AM

Love the arm-chair crash experts here. They think they know everything about crash scenes and how things are conducted at the site. Well buckos I was part of a CAT (Causualty Action Team) and incident sites are not nice an clean. It is a chaotic period with heavy smoke, debris, fuel, fire and to be blunt corpses and body parts strewn for hundreds of feet around the area. In the chaos it is very easy to not see a person especially if they are not in bright colored clothing but in sooty bloody clothes it is a miracle not more surviors are hit and killed by Equipment and First responder vehicles in the first minutes of the incident if said incident happens at an airfield. I quit my companies CAT after a gruesome tear down of an engine I just could not handle the horror I saw anymore. So go on arm-chair experts keep watching hollywood crap and deluding yourselves that is what an incident looks like and that you know everything about incident investigation, airport operations, and aviation after all sittng in a cabin as cattle makes you a aerospace engineer right?

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1 reply to John's comment
Darren February 26 2014 at 10:40 PM

I agree John...people on here don't know crap about aviation....hell, they can barely drive a car...

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acabagui February 26 2014 at 2:55 AM

According to www.OurHappySchool.com "SOME AUTHORITIES say that people join fraternities or sororities for basically the same reasons. Gang membership is oftentimes related to the 5 basic needs that Abraham Maslow theorized: the physiological needs, the needs for safety, the need for love/belongingness, the need for self-esteem, and the need to feel that someone has the potential to reach specific goals (self-actualization)".

In my stand Fraternity is more on belongingness because you can get the security that you want. Fraternity helps their members to ba a good leader. It enhance also your social life.

But ofcourse if you're a good man and living in a peaceful life you dont need to join fraternity. And if social life you want to enhance, you can get it in school.

Still, Fraternity teaches us to be a independent individual. It test our loyalty and trust in one another.

http://ourhappyschool.com/debate/fraternity-belongingness-or-violence

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slackwarerobert February 26 2014 at 9:54 AM

So this crash was a frat house prank then? I hadn't heard that.
It was government certification of pilots that can't fly a plane that caused this one.
To lazy to fly and they let the computer do it.

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waterbirds February 26 2014 at 10:28 PM

Not too lazy. Just too inept. The crews actions were outrageous!

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John Lee February 26 2014 at 2:52 AM

Accidents are never one sighted as how US media always reports...........................

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acabagui February 26 2014 at 2:48 AM

BVCB

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Reg Anz February 26 2014 at 2:31 AM

Let's not jump to conclusions here, I want to hear what the pilot, Sum Ting Wong, has to say about all this!

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