Missing Flight 370 and Malaysia Airlines are fading from the news headlines, and Malaysia Airlines is most likely happy about that. While CNN is focusing on “Flight 370 search chief: Hunt for plane is the most difficult in history” in its May 12 report with catchy words like “hunt” and “history,” The Wall Street Journal focuses on the need for global tracking of commercial airliners. In its latest live update report on May 14, the Mirror writes that the cost of the search for the missing flight is expected to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars -- just not for Malaysia Airlines.
“The total cost of the search for Flight MH370 to all of the nations involved since the aircraft went missing on March 8 is likely to run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.” For now, the cost in the search for the missing plane is being carried by those nations involved. If the missing aircraft was found, all of that could change.
Nilofar Vaezi Tehrani is the mother of 19-year-old Pouria Nourmohammadi who was one of the 227 passengers on the missing plane. Tehrani’s son was one of the two Iranian men who had boarded the flight with a stolen passport. Tehrani’s son, as it turned out, was not a terrorist but a dedicated son who had converted to Christianity. Afraid of prosecution in Iran for his conversion, he obtained a fake passport to fly to his mother in Germany who is battling with breast cancer. “He wanted to join to help me,” said the 19-year-old’s mom while holding back her tears.
Some of the vanished passenger’s family members live in San Diego, and his aunt and uncle shared with San Diego’s 10News the legal battle the family is facing. Even though Malaysian authorities have confirmed that the 19-year-old young man was seeking asylum and was not a terrorist, Malaysia Airlines is refusing to provide the family with a copy of his ticket for Flight 370. “The request was denied by the airline, citing a pending investigation.”
“Under International Civil Aviation Organisation rules, next-of-kin in a plane crash are entitled to an automatic minimum of about US$175,000 per passenger, regardless of fault, payable by an airline's insurance company,” writes the South China Morning Post on May 14. In addition to the $175,000, family members can also file a civil lawsuit for even greater damages. “Damages are typically based on the lost lifetime earnings of a victim and thus could total in the hundreds of millions for all passengers combined. A US law firm is already planning a ‘multimillion-dollar’ lawsuit against Malaysia Airlines and aircraft maker Boeing, on behalf of an Indonesian passenger's family.”
Jeremy Joseph, a Malaysian lawyer who specializes in cases like this is saying that “on the surface, [Malaysia Airlines] is responsible," and that the “burden of proof" rested with the carrier to clear its name. However, as long as the missing flight is not found and there is no clear evidence that Malaysia Airlines was responsible, the company can try to settle with the relatives of the family members out of court. Those settlements are most likely much less than what family members would receive if the aircraft was found and the airline or the government could be held responsible. Malaysia Airlines is already struggling financially and finding MH 370 might mean the end of the airline.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said in his latest announcement that “nobody knows what happened on board MH370 or precisely where the plane is more than two months after it disappeared.” Malaysia Airlines is refusing to provide ticket information to family members, and police in Kuala Lumpur are not releasing any significant findings from their criminal investigation.
If missing Flight 370 would be found and it could be proven that Malaysia Airlines or the Malaysia government was responsible for the fate of the plane, the cost for the airline and the government could be devastating. Malaysia's government did not search for the plane for four hours after its disappearance. With every day that has gone by since the plane vanished on March 8, so has the chance of finding evidence that either one of the two parties could have been responsible. As reported by the Mirror, Australia is contributing almost $90 million in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, and other countries are also covering their own costs. What incentive is there really for Malaysia Airlines or Malaysia’s government to find the missing aircraft?