Air India compensation not enough, families say

The families of 158 people who died in an Air India crash last year say the Dh618,000 payout each family will receive is not enough to replace their loved ones' income.

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DUBAI // The court decision ordering Air India to pay the families of 158 people killed in last year's Mangalore air disaster will not adequately cover women and young children who do not have other financial support, their relatives in Dubai and Kerala said yesterday.

Dozens of victims from Dubai, among those who died in the Air India Express crash last year, were sending money back home every month.

The Kerala high court on Wednesday ordered the airline to pay 7.5million rupees (Dh618,000) to each victim's family, but relatives say that is not enough to replace what their loved ones - in many cases the sole breadwinners - were earning.

Discussions on the compensation, appointment of lawyers to represent the Dubai families and joint action plans will be the focus of meetings that will be held in Dubai and India on Saturday.

"The court order can help some people, but what about those who were their families' only support?" asked Abdul Rasheed, the head of leasing in a Dubai-based property firm, who lost his 50-year-old brother-in-law in the crash.

Air India Express Flight 812 from Dubai, with 160 passengers and six crew on board, overshot the runway and crashed while landing at Mangalore on May 22 last year. Only eight passengers survived.

"Our battle starts again. We will have to stick together, appoint lawyers because people from here [Dubai] can't keep going to India," Mr Rasheed said.

A senior manager with a UAE oil company, Mr Rasheed's late brother-in-law left behind a wife and four young daughters.

"My sister and my nieces are suffering. I have to fight for justice for them," Mr Rasheed said.

Families in Dubai and India closely followed the court ruling. Air India is legally bound to adhere to the Montreal Convention, to which India is a signatory. The convention makes the airline liable for damages.

While families viewed the Kerala judgment as the first step in receiving compensation payouts, confusion persisted about the money.

"People are not very happy because the money will not be enough for families completely without support," said Narayanan Kalingom, the vice president of the Mangalore Air Crash Victims' Association, who lost his Dubai-based younger brother in the disaster. His brother worked as a sales executive in Dubai, and his brother's wife and two young children now live with Mr Kalingom's mother.

"There is so much sorrow at home. People go to Dubai to make their fortune, their life. This is too much tragedy, it should never happen to anyone," he said.

The court judgment states that the minimum payment of 7.5 million rupees must be made regardless of the victim's age or earning potential.

"This court is of the firm belief that the deceased ... is not liable to be discriminated by the respondents, restricting the compensation with reference to his age, income or the dependency of the members of his family," the judgment states.

"Families will be compensated equally whether they lost a child or an adult," said MG Pushpakaran, the chairman of the National Action Council that helps the families of the victims.

Air India has already paid each family one million Indian rupees (Dh82,261) as interim compensation and has appointed a Mumbai-based law firm to negotiate final compensation amounts.

Meanwhile, Air India officials said representatives would visit Dubai over the next few weeks to meet families.

"The court has said the payments have to be made within a month and that will be our endeavour," said one official, who did not wish to be named.

"The modalities are being worked out, our priority is completing this within the time frame."