WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The Department of Transportation has fined Asiana Airlines $500,000 for failing to properly assist the families of passengers aboard a flight that crashed last year in San Francisco.
With the announcement of the penalty Tuesday, the South Korea-based airline becomes the first to receive a fine under a 1997 federal law requiring carriers to provide assistance following a crash. Asiana took two days to contact just three-quarters of the families of passengers aboard Flight 214, which crashed upon landing at San Francisco Airport on July 6, killing three people. Other families weren't contacted for as many as five days.
“In the very rare event of a crash, airlines have a responsibility to provide their full support to help passengers and their families by following all the elements of their family assistance plans,” said Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx, in a statement released by the DOT. “The last thing families and passengers should have to worry about at such a stressful time is how to get information from their carrier. At DOT, we are committed to protecting consumers and their families when they travel and will continue to take enforcement action when federal statutes are violated.”
The Foreign Air Carrier Family Support Act of 1997 requires airlines to provide and publicize a hotline in which families can contact the airline and as well as notify the family immediately upon identifying passengers. Asiana, instead, required families to call their normal reservations line and navigate through cumbersome menus before being connected to an operator.