Passenger switch spurs Asiana to sue for damages

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Passenger switch spurs Asiana to sue for damages

The Seoul Southern District Court announced on Friday that Asiana Airlines, the country’s second-largest carrier, has demanded compensation from two Korean nationals for swapping boarding passes in March for two flights from Hong Kong to Incheon.

The individuals, surnamed Park and Kim, were sued for business obstruction.

The incident forced the Asiana flight to return to Hong Kong nearly mid-way through its journey, resulting in about 61 million won ($53,987) in financial damages. Asiana was required to pay additional fuel fees and cover hotel costs for its other passengers stranded in Hong Kong.

According to the court, Kim reportedly swapped boarding passes with Park to land in Korea at an earlier time. The airline was unaware of the switch at the time of boarding.

Kim took a seat on an Asiana Airlines flight from Hong Kong to Incheon that was originally booked by Park. However, the aircraft was forced to return to Hong Kong an hour and 30 minutes into the nearly four-hour flight after officials were notified about the swap by Jeju Air, another domestic carrier, which was also operating between Hong Kong and Korea.

A Jeju Air employee informed the relevant authorities after discovering that Park was attempting to board the aircraft with Kim’s boarding pass.

“Boarding an aircraft with fake identification for personal convenience can be a serious threat to air security and compromises the safety of other passengers,” Asiana said in a statement.

However, Lee Tae-ho, a lawyer representing Park and Kim, said that Asiana was not completely without fault in the incident, as properly identifying passengers is part of the airline operator’s legal responsibility.

Checking a passenger’s passport and boarding pass was part of the fundamental procedures, he said, adding that it was not fair for Asiana to request full compensation from the defendants because the airline had been negligent in performing its required duties.

The first trial is scheduled for Wednesday.

BY CHAE YOON-KYUNG AND NAM YOON-SEO [nam.yoonseo@joongang.co.kr]

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