Families demand compensation from Lion Air 3 months after plane crash

At least 64 families have rejected Lion Air's offer of compensation. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Three months after losing their loved ones in the Lion Air flight JT610 crash, the families of the victims have demanded the airline fulfil its obligations by compensating all passengers' next of kin.

On Monday (Jan 21), a group of the victims' families went to the House of Representatives to express their grievances over "unfair compensation".

"Lion Air has yet to meet its obligation (to compensate these families). Therefore, we demand the airline fulfil its responsibility," Mr Aprillia Supaliyanto, the lawyer representing the families, told journalists on Monday at noon.

A member of the group, Mr Anton Sahadi, who lost two cousins, said most of the families of passengers and crew members of the flight had received 50 million rupiah (S$4,786) in compensation from state-owned insurance company Jasa Raharja. The compensation was given in accordance with the law and a 2017 finance ministerial regulation.

However, Lion Air has yet to provide each family compensation for their loss.

The obligation on the compensation is stipulated in Article 3 of Transportation Ministerial Regulation No. 77/2011 on airlines' responsibilities. The provision requires airlines to provide up to 1.25 billion rupiah in compensation for each passenger killed in an accident.

"Lion Air once offered to pay each family of the victims 1.3 billion rupiah in compensation for their loss. However, the compensation comes along with prerequisites that include a clause saying we cannot sue them in the future if we accept the money," Mr Anton said.

"We want unconditional compensation because this offer restricts our rights (to get what we deserve)," he added.

The lawyer said such preconditions potentially hurt the families of the victims as they could get a higher amount of money than promised by the airline.

The downed flight, which used a brand-new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, crashed into the Java Sea shortly after taking off from Jakarta en route to Pangkalpinang, Bangka Belitung Islands, killing all 189 passengers and crew members - including three minors - on board.

At least 64 families have rejected Lion Air's offer of compensation. Meanwhile, 52 families are thought to have signed an agreement with the airline.

"Most of the families who signed the deal told me they took the offer for economic reasons. The others just want to settle this matter once and for all," Mr Anton added.

The lawyer also urged the government to look into the matter as he said it had a role as regulator and supervisor, a statement echoed by House Deputy Speaker Fahri Hamzah.

"I will urge the government to work together in finding a solution for the matter. Apart from writing a letter to President (Joko Widodo) suggesting that he assist these families, we lawmakers will also work something out in the House," Mr Fahri said.

Lion Air spokesman Danang Mandala Prihantoro and the Transportation Ministry's air transportation director general, Ms Polana B. Pramesti, were not immediately available for comment.

The families of the victims have put together a joint project to help those affected cope with the tragedy, including funding a search effort to locate the remains of victims that have yet to be found by the search and rescue team.

Mr Anton said some families had hired a vessel and team of divers on Dec 28 to conduct a search mission to locate victims of the flight. A single mission, he added, could cost 132 million rupiah. They had found some human remains and aircraft debris.

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