x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Families want end to Air India dispute

Family members of people who died in an Air India crash last year are travelling from Dubai to New Delhi today to seek compensation for their losses.

SHARJAH // UAE-based relatives of victims of the Mangalore air crash will travel to New Delhi today to seek an amicable settlement to a dispute over compensation.

Four people from four different families in the Emirates will join relatives of crash victims from India in seeking recompense as provided by international laws. They will meet the Indian civil aviation ministry, Air India and the airline's insurers in advance of a Supreme Court appeal that is expected to be filed next week.

The Air India Express flight from Dubai overshot the runway in May last year, killing 152 passengers and all six crew. Eight passengers survived the crash.

"We want to seek an amicable settlement," said Abdul Rehman, a Dubai resident who lost his wife and child in the crash. "We want to be compensated as per the Montreal Convention. If the talks don't work, we will look at alternative steps."

Under the Montreal Convention, airlines are required to pay compensation equal to 7.5 million rupees (Dh560,000) per passenger to families of crash victims, without the victims' families having to prove negligence.

In July, a judge in Kerala ordered the airline to follow the convention in the country's first judgment since it became a signatory. The verdict was overruled a month later by the Kerala High Court in favour of the airline. The final appeal in the highest court next week will decide the issue.

The Indian civil aviation minister, Vayalar Ravi, said he was in favour of a settlement. "I am looking at ways to help them," he said at the opening of the Sharjah International Book Fair on Wednesday.

"I thought I must also call them and have face-to-face discussions. The meeting is not just to hear them but also discuss in detail if we can come to a conclusion. The intention is to help them."

Families in the UAE and India said this week they were preparing for the final showdown with the government-owned carrier as one of the relatives files an appeal in the country's top court next week.

Meanwhile the Indian Association in Sharjah took the opportunity of the visit by Mr Ravi, who is also the overseas Indian affairs minister, to urge him to consider pensions for low-income expatriates returning home.

"It usually happens that these employees work very hard for years together, practically saving nothing and returning empty-handed, because of various reasons," said K Balakrishnan, the president of the association.

"They mainly belong to the lower-income group and deserve the kindness of the government," Mr Balakrishnan said. "If the government of India introduces a pension scheme for them with a minimum premium amount, it will be a great blessing for them."