As the aviation/airline world knows by now, on February 25, 2014, Asiana Airlines was hit with a $500,000 civil penalty for multiple violations of federal law following the crash of Asiana Flight 214 on July 6, 2013, at SFO.
While the Consent Order sets forth Asiana’s position in mitigation, it is evident that the DOT rejected Asiana’s explanation by imposing the first ever monetary penalty for violations of the Foreign Air Carrier Family Support Act of 1997, 49 USC § 41313.
Every air carrier, but particularly non-US air carriers operating into the United States, should view this as an object lesson and recognize there are several takeaways.
– If you haven’t done it recently, review your Family Assistance Plan on file with DOT ensuring it is current.
– Ensure that what you have on file with DOT seamlessly meshes with your internal plan and emergency response procedures. Don’t say one thing and do another!
– Recognize that third party vendors are just that, namely third parties. While the airline will be held responsible for their actions, third party vendors are not the airline and don’t have the same concerns. The DOT will not be looking to them for compliance with your family assistance plan.
– If the airline is going to retain or rely upon outside consultants, whether they are attorneys or family assistance providers, make sure that they have “been there and done that.” Insure that they have actually handled an airline accident. If they haven’t done so, forget them. You don’t want someone advising you who hasn’t actually done it himself. OST is unacceptable!
– Recognize that the next time there is an incident or accident involving an airline, the airline’s family assistance response will be under a microscope by the DOT and the NTSB.
– Focus your next tabletop drill/emergency response drill on the family assistance response and use the Asiana Consent Order as a resource to insure that you do it right.
– Involve your insurer and your broker in your family assistance planning. They’re the ones who will be involved in writing the checks so make sure they’re in the loop.