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Has US Airways Adequately Compensated Crash Landing Passengers?

Jan 27, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Although survivors of the dramatic January 15th US Airways crash this month have received some compensation for their troubles, some feel they deserve more, USA Today reports.  US Airways sent each passenger an apology letter, reimbursement for the flight, and an additional payment for $5000, said USA Today.

The safety advocacy group National Air Disaster Alliance & Foundation, says $5,000 is insufficient.  "We're grateful everyone survived, and the captain on the plane was so marvelous," executive director Gail Dunham told USA Today, "But passengers lost luggage, briefcases, cellphones, BlackBerrys, and business documents, and went through a terrific ordeal," Dunham added.  Many passengers say they lost much more than $5000 in possessions and are unclear if or when they will ever receive their belongings back, said USA Today.

USA Today described one passenger who said that while it is too soon to establish the emotional toll from the crash, each flight he has been on since the has been “progressively more difficult.”  Others say it will cost them much more than $5000 in possessions that were either left behind or are lost, some are considering legal action, some are waiting to see if the airline will do more, and others are concerned about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, said USA Today.

Before anything can be returned, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) needs to look at baggage and other passenger belongings to determine what they weighed on the plane, said spokesman Peter Knudson, adding that it could be "weeks or months" before everything is returned, reported USA Today.  Meanwhile, US Airways Vice President Jim Olson said an insurance claims specialist is contacting passengers who will “be reimbursed for expenses or losses” above what US Airways has sent them, said USA Today.  Department of Transportation regulations say airlines are liable up to $3,300 per passenger for lost or damaged checked bags on domestic flights; most carriers do not cover loss of or damage to carry-ons unless handled by a crewmember.

Just two weeks before the airbus was forced to crash land into the Hudson, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandated increased inspections for that plane’s engine, reported Newsday, which noted that the engine was no stranger to a type of engine stall.  The same plane experienced mid-flight engine problems two days earlier, reported Newsday.  And while it remains unclear if the problems are related, the engine involved seems to require more in-depth inspections due to the stall to which it is prone.

All 155 crew and passengers aboard Flight 1549, heading from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Charlotte, North Carolina, survived; however, officials report many passengers were taken to local hospitals and makeshift emergency rooms.  Passengers described the experience as harrowing, said Newsday.  News reports described people being pulled from the water and passengers suffering from hypothermia, and others bleeding and suffering from broken bones.

In the earlier flight, passengers described a series of loud bangs, said CNN, which added that the crew advised them that they might have to emergency land.  Passenger Steve Jeffrey told CNN that, "It sounded like the wing was just snapping off.  The red lights started going on.  A little pandemonium was going on."  Jeffrey told CNN that, "It wasn't turbulence, it wasn't luggage bouncing around. It was just completely like the engine was thrown against the side of the plane.”  Another passenger described “very loud bangs and fire coming out of the engine.”


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