Asiana claims ministry prejudged crash penalty

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Asiana claims ministry prejudged crash penalty



Asiana Airlines, which was punished last Friday for a fatal accident last year with a 45-day suspension on its San Francisco flights, said yesterday it will appeal the decision by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and will request to replace the head of the review committee that made the decision.

The nation’s second-largest airline claimed yesterday it suspected that the Transport Ministry had already decided the punishment for the fatal crash before it opened a review committee to discuss the penalty.

“We found that a public officer from the Transport Ministry distributed a document about suspension measures when visiting the National Assembly Standing Committee, acting like the suspension was an established fact,” Asiana said in a release. “The ministry itself is responsible for this distrust.”

The affiliate of Kumho Asiana Group said it is also requesting the head of a review committee to be changed before the ministry starts any re-evaluation of Asiana’s penalty. If not, the company said it will file a suit.

The air carrier said it also plans to request the Board of Audit and Inspection to look into whether the ministry’s review committee carried out a fair review process, while asking the Regulatory Reform Committee to weed out excessive regulation in the local aviation industry.

Asiana, which operates daily flights from Incheon to San Francisco, needs to carry out the 45-day suspension within six months if the ministry’s decision stands. While apologizing for the accident, the company has been asking for a fine rather than a suspension of flights, citing the inconvenience to customers and petitions from various parties including the International Air Transport Association.

The company said that the suspension will result in about 15 billion won ($13.7 million) in losses.

“If we get a suspension, we will also reconsider participating in the government-led MRO [Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul] project due to financial difficulties,” Asiana said.

The ministry said that Asiana’s claim is not true because no decision was made before the committee meeting, although it prepared follow-up measures for both a suspension or a fine.

“On the day the review was held, we didn’t know what the result would be so even different press releases for both possible results were prepared,” said an official from the ministry. “Asiana’s action seems to be the company’s scheme to bring this case to court.”

Industry insiders said Asiana’s appeal wasn’t a surprise, but that the carrier is responding more aggressively than expected.

“Asiana is acting like its life depends on this case,” said an executive at a local airline. “A suspension hurts the airline financially, but it also dents the public image, so it seems to be eager to reverse the decision.”


BY JOO KYUNG-DON [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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