A specialist aviation barrister, Jonathan Chambers, has said that the lack of external data regarding the disappearance of flight MH370 could lead to the airline having to pay substantially more in compensation. Where the airline is able to show that they did nothing wrong, and were not at fault for death or injury caused on their plane, liability is limited to the equivalent of £100,000 per person. Where this cannot be proven, which is highly likely if the plane cannot even be located, they are open to unlimited personal injury liability. Mr Chambers went on to say that the industry as a whole should look more carefully into external data collection practices.
The vast majority of data recorded about a flight is recorded on the plane itself. From eye witness accounts, to the contents of the black box, and even the condition of the plane itself, if the plane and passengers cannot be found, then it means that the exact reason and cause of the accident cannot be proven. This is especially important to the airlines, because they must be able to show that they were not at fault. If they cannot call on any evidence from the plane, even though it may not be possible to prove that the airline were liable, they will not be able to prove otherwise.
The Montreal Convention is a specific set of rules that were drawn up in 1999 by members of the International Civil Aviation Organization. It is a multilateral treaty, which means all those that signed up agreed to be bound by the terms of the Convention. Primarily, it introduced a two-tier compensation system. Where airlines can prove they were not liable for damage or injury, their liability would be limited to £100,000. If they are not able to show this, then the liability amount is unlimited.
The search for flight MH370 continues, and even when the plane is found, it is uncertain what the findings will be and whether the airline is at fault, or will be able to prove that they are not. However, for now, at least, Malaysia Airlines faces a substantial compensation bill.
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