Dubai: A year after the Dubai-Kozhikode Air India Express flight crashed, many survivors and families of the deceased are still on the road to recovery — and compensation.
Nineteen passengers and the pilot and co-pilot were killed after Air India Express flight IX1344 skidded off and overshot the tabletop runway at Calicut International Airport in the south Indian state of Kerala on August 7, 2020. The COVID-19 special repatriation flight under India’s Vande Bharat Mission, carrying 184 passengers and six crew members, nosedived into a valley and broke into two around 7.40pm local time.
Ahead of an anniversary memorial meeting at the crash site tomorrow, Gulf News spoke to some of the survivors, family members of the deceased passengers.
According to Air India Express, 165 injured passengers and the next-of-kin of all the deceased were issued a total amount of Rs43 million (Dh2.16 million) in interim compensation last September. This amount stands to be deducted from the full and final compensation that the airline’s reinsurer has proposed.
“We have completed the process of offering compensation to all the injured passengers and family members of the deceased passengers. We have also made full payment in two working days to 80 passengers after they accepted the offer based on proof of loss assessed,” an airline spokesperson told Gulf News.
He added that passengers who were yet to accept the final compensation offer were given a chance to have direct discussions with the airline. “We have held 138 such meetings so far. We have also ensured that there is no out-of-pocket expenditure for the injured passengers. Cost of their treatment has been borne by the airline till date,” he added.
How much has been paid?
Sources aware of the compensation disbursement told Gulf News that around Rs660 million had been paid to 80 survivors as full and final compensation. While those who did not sustain physical injuries and did not lose any baggage were issued compensation ranging from Rs750,000 to Rs1.5 million for mental trauma, some who sustained injuries were issued compensation to the tune of Rs70 million based on the proof of loss assessed.
Another Rs70 million have also been spent so far on treatment of the passengers and the bystanders.
What about the rest?
As many as 25 survivors and families of 18 deceased passengers, who have engaged a law firm in the UAE, are seeking a higher compensation since they feel the compensation offered is far less than what they deserve.
A spokesperson for the families said they were in final rounds of discussions to decide whether to accept the revised compensation offer after considering their demand or to file a suit seeking higher compensation. Those who have engaged legal firms to represent them are being addressed by the airline’s law firm.
The families of 18 deceased passengers have also engaged a law firm in the United States to fight for compensation from aircraft manufacturer Boeing as well.
What is the airline saying?
The airline’s spokesperson claimed that its team could complete the entire activities required for assessment of compensation and made offers of final compensation amidst all the pandemic-related restrictions, though the next-of-kin of the deceased submitted their claims as late as this April. He said the airline did not form a medical board to assess the disabilities of the injured.
“We did not insist on any medical certificate or disability certificate. Just what their treating doctor stated in the discharge summary was used to assess future cost of treatment,” the spokesperson said.
He added that it was up to the families to accept or reject the offers. “None has rejected the offer. Earlier, 26 writ petitions filed in Kerala High Court were disposed of. There is no legal fight in the court now.”
What about compensation from the government?
Family members of the deceased said they had received the interim solatium of Rs1 million each from the state government, as announced by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. However, the state is yet to disburse the promised interim compensation to the injured, they said. The families also claimed that neither the survivors nor the families of the deceased have received any interim compensation as announced by Hardeep Singh Puri, the then Civil Aviation minister of India.
The interim compensation offered by the airline was Rs1 million to the next-of-kin of deceased passengers aged 12 years and above, Rs500,000 to passengers below 12 years, Rs200,000 to passengers who were critically injured and Rs50,000 to others. Puri had announced identical amounts and said it would be over and above all other compensations.
August 7: Air India Express Flight IX1344 crashes.
August 20: Baggage delivery completed.
September 15: Interim compensation completed.
October: Disbursement of individual claim forms to 190 families completed.
November: Compensation offers sent out. Settlement of compensation completed in two days after acceptance by 80 survivors.