Officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation are currently investigating the response of Asiana Airlines following a crash of one of their planes at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) that left three Chinese students dead and dozens of others seriously injured. Investigators are looking into whether Asiana met their legal obligations to provide an array of services in accordance with The Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996, to the families of the 291 passengers aboard Asiana Flight OZ214, which crashed during a failed landing attempt at SFO on July 6, 2013.
The standards for airlines to follow in the wake of an air disaster were established by Congress in the 1990’s after several airlines failed to adequately provide appropriate responses to the families of victims. Some of the services that Asiana was supposed to provide include the immediate posting of a toll-free phone number so those affected by the crash could send and receive information, as well as ensure that lodging and transportation was readily available for the victims’ families.
According to officials with the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) Transportation Disaster Assistance Division, it was abundantly clear at the onset that the airline was having problems with their response to the crash. Stories of confusion were aplenty among the families of the crash victims, with some stuck waiting hours for updates on the conditions of their loved ones.
According to the Associated Press, Asiana’s family assistance plan in response to air disasters was last updated nearly 10 years ago. In fact, the airline’s plan had a list of emergency contacts for “key management officials” that were out of date. The NTSB requested that the contact information be updated last year, but Asiana ignored the request. Distressingly, Asiana is not alone in not keeping post-crash protocol current: at least two dozen other foreign airlines examined by the Associated Press have not updated their family assistance plans to meet requirements set by the Department of Transportation.
Asiana is reportedly facing a fine of $27,500 for every family assistance law it violated following the crash.