Malaysia Airlines is not liable for what occurred to Flight MH17, or so alleges Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, reports Time. During a press conference in the federal capital of Kuala Lampur earlier this morning (EST time), the minister asserted that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 had followed “an approved route” — one that 15 other international air carriers also routinely use.
While the ultimate blame clearly lies with whoever shot down the airplane (many suspect Russian separatists), the fact that Malaysia Airlines allowed the plane to fly over a known war zone also remains a factor to consider, especially when it comes to insurance liability. The Wall Street Journal explains:
“Those potentially liable to compensate victims’ families in the latest crash include the airline, governments and aviation authorities in Malaysia and Holland—some of which are private—because they permitted a flight over a known war zone, experts say. The Russian or Ukrainian governments also could be liable if investigators find evidence that those behind the crash had state backing.”
The Montreal Convention requires that Malaysia Airlines make an initial payment of $170,000 USD for every passenger, regardless of whether it is at fault. The complexity comes afterward. The airline could very well wind up owing a lot more money, especially given the precarious details pertaining to Flight MH17’s demise.
For instance, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had issued warnings in June “urging airlines to avoid Ukrainian airspace.” However, according to ABC News Australia, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak denies this, claiming instead that the airspace Flight MH17 attempted to cross had specifically been deemed safe by ICAO. His premise is that the flight was basically flying above the restricted area.
UK aviation security expert Chris Yates strongly disagrees. During an interview with ABC Radio National, Yates argued that “air traffic controllers should have warned the airliner of the danger.” Furthermore, because Malaysia Airlines air traffic controllers failed to provide this warning, they should therefore be held liable.
This preliminary disagreement in perspective points to the larger back-and-forth diatribe that we are bound to see during what Shine Lawyers attorney Joseph Wheeler describes as the “very long, convoluted and politically charged compensation case” that will inevitably follow.
The remaining question — one that desperately needs to be resolved — is who exactly shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. All evidence points to Ukrainian separatists, but confirmation still eludes the authorities and experts.
[Image via Google Images]