What US Airways is Doing for The Passengers of Flight 1549

It’s somewhat surprising, but you rarely hear about how people and their families are treated after an accident. What actually happens? US Airways is opening up the kimono a bit here to show us how they’re dealing with it this week. So far, they’re getting praise from passengers on flight 1549, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

A spokesperson sent me a copy of the letter they sent to every passenger on that flight. This letter was accompanied by a check for $5,000 to cover the cost of replacing belongings (above the legal requirement, I believe) and another check reimbursing the cost of the ticket.

Here’s the full text of the letter. Then come back for a little more discussion at the end.

On behalf of all of us at US Airways, we hope that you have returned home and are resting and recovering following the evacuation of Flight 1549 on January 15, 2009. We are extremely grateful that our crew used their combined experience and training to safely land and evacuate all of the passengers onboard this flight. We also thank you, as many of you also played a role in ensuring a quick and safe exit.

We know you have many questions, and that one of your immediate needs is to obtain the items that you had on the aircraft. The purpose of this letter is to tell you what happens next with those items, and also to provide some immediate assistance so that you can begin replacing them. Throughout this experience, you have our commitment that we will do our absolute best to explain all we can about what is happening and why, and with that, we want you to know the status of your belongings and next steps.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has now begun their investigation of this accident, and we are offering our full participation and cooperation. Investigatory protocol requires that the aircraft and all of its contents must be examined and weighed prior to releasing any items onboard in order to verify the weight and balance on the aircraft. This is an important part of their work to understand the reason for the emergency water landing. Unfortunately, this includes all of the personal effects that were in the aircraft’s cabin and cargo hold. The process is to weigh all items in their current state, dry them for eight weeks, and then weigh them again. This means we cannot return your items to you until the NTSB recovers and releases them, a process that will likely take several months. It is also possible that some items may be unrecoverable.

We anticipate that the delay the investigation causes may present an inconvenience and expense for you. We want to do our best to ensure that you do not incur personal expense or hardship while the investigation continues. To assist you with your immediate needs, we have enclosed a check for $5,000. In addition, we are also including a separate check to reimburse you for the cost of your ticket. This is an obvious reimbursement that we wanted to make quickly to each of you.

US Airways is committed to working with you to address any needs you have as a result of this experience. In the initial period following the accident, our employees worked to contact and support you on the ground in New York as well as from our Family Support Center in our Tempe, Arizona headquarters. Your Family Support Center representative will remain engaged with you, and we’ll make every effort to do that in a way that best suits your individual needs. Please let us know if your needs are not being met in any way.

I am truly sorry for what you experienced on Flight 1549. We were all amazed by the actions of our crew, the first responders, and our customers, and we were humbled by the grace displayed by all in the time that followed. Please do not hesitate to let me know how my colleagues at US Airways and I can continue to assist you.

Sincerely,

Kerry F. Hester

If there’s one thing US Airways deserves credit for here, it’s acting very quickly. The answers may be anything BUT what a passenger would want to hear, but at least they’re not mincing words and promising things that won’t happen. (How many friggin’ weeks does the bag have to dry?!?) So far, people seem to be happy with what they’re hearing.

Barry Leonard, a guy who actually cracked his sternum in the accident, said the airline has “bent over backwards” so far. That certainly puts a nice extra warm fuzzy feeling on what so far has been a great story.

I’m sure that once the final reports are in, some people will try to sue for more money after having gone through the experience. Depending upon what the report says, they may even have a case, but we know that doesn’t matter. The sleezy ambulance chasers are circling like sharks, and they’ll convince some people to sue no matter what. But these early measures by US Airways can only help, and it certainly is proving to be welcome by the passengers onboard.

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20 Comments on "What US Airways is Doing for The Passengers of Flight 1549"

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james
Guest
Some attorneys will even sue before anything is even known. Not as dramatic, but last month here in Denver a Continental jet slid off the runway on takeoff. Thanks to the speedy crew, pilots’ help, and luck, everyone escaped before the plane caught fire. Now Jason Gibson, a lawyer in Houston, has signed up two girls to not only sue Continental, but also sue the pilots PERSONALLY. (Which means going after their own finances.) I believe pilots’ unions would prevent this from occuring – but just the thought of it disgusts me.Without any aviation knowledge the lawyer is insisting some… Read more »
Oliver
Guest

It’s very fortunate that we can make jokes about a near tragedy… so here it goes: are those passengers who paid extra for choice seats going to get a refund for those?

gobluetwo
Guest

I’d also like some lifetime Gold status to go along with the $5250, please….

At least I would had I been one of those onboard. Is that unreasonable? I’d be one of those consistent “Silver on the cusp of Gold and occasionally making it over the hump” flyers otherwise.

Back on topic, great move by US to act quickly. Smart business and PR move, as well as appropriate given the circumstances.

John M.
Guest
The more I learn about this incident, the more I think that there is almost nothing we can learn from it from a safety standpoint. The combination of lucky circumstances they experienced is so freakish it will probably never be repeated. They were at exactly the right altitude when struck, low enough that they were still going slowly but high enough to have some energy to work with. They never lost control, and they had available a long, straight, unobstructed body of calm water, moving the same direction they were, that just happened to be frequented by large capacity ferry… Read more »
Nick Barnard
Member

Hmm That Texas lawyer makes me want to hire a botnet and flood his box with spam….

Brian
Guest

Don’t hate all the lawyers. Hate the fact that compensation it’s statutorily limited because of airline lobbying.

It’s one thing to try to reduce frivolous lawsuits. But, it’s entirely another thing for a company not to pay the replacement cost of someone’s personal belongings after they were nearly killed by that company’s service.

j.mothena
Member
So far, I don’t see how anyone can do anything but applaud US Airways for how they’ve handled this. If I had been one of the passengers on that plane, their actions would have made me feel very positive toward the airline. The $5,000 checks were generous, and refunding the tickets was an especially nice touch since, according to my understanding, they also took care of getting most of the passengers either to their homes or the destinations they chose without any expense to the passenger. I totally disagree that there is “almost nothing we can learn from it from… Read more »
yo
Guest

Well, for all the US employees, that constantly bash what Tempe does, I hope they realize that the old pre-merger USAirways would never be this proactive.

US is trying to turn the tide and get the culture back to a positive one for employees, time for east and west to become one and realize that there is good management out there and they are trying.

Joe
Guest
I’m not a frequent flyer, but I remember reading in the T&C of my ticket a while back that accident insurance was included in the cost of the ticket but void in a terrorist incident. Wouldn’t that cover the costs of reimbursing the pax? While I’m all for tort reform and am not in support of ambulance chasers, shouldn’t there be additional compensation without having to sue for it? I think the refund and free transportation to final destination is a given, the $5,000 reasonable for lost effects, but what about compensation for the fact that they were in a… Read more »
Greg Wesson
Guest

I wonder if cashing the cheque would in any way invalidate any future claims you could make against the airline?

While it was an impressive landing, and certainly US Air does seem to be acting very well to the passengers at this point, I still think it is too early to praise them too much. My understanding is that airline accidents can rarely be attributed to a single cause, and that as the NTSB investigates, we may find that faults or mistakes with the airplane, airline or crew contributed to the accident.

Nick Barnard
Member

I like that US Airways is at least being proactive.

I think if you said you were traumatized, they’d more than happily pay for counseling etc. The approach here is: This is the least we can do, let us know specifically what else you need.

I’m sure if you went to them and said you had more than $5k of items onboard they’d probably accommodate a reasonable request.

But, I’d be interested to see how this comes out and if they get sued. I think many instances of companies getting sued is because people feel wronged.

John M.
Guest
Joe, not to be to snarky about this, but what are we going to learn? Always fly over rivers? Don’t hit birds? Only depart from cities with ferry service? I like the NTSB fine, no knock on them, and I’m sure they’ll come up with a couple of little ideas like changes in the breifing or making life seat cusions easier to get out. But I think we need to get away from the idea that the NTSB can make changes that will “insure this never happens again” as some people say. We had the crash of Comair 5191 out… Read more »
HJR
Guest

I think the Canadian Geese should be sued… or at least the Government of Canada, perhaps, for allowing the Geese to evolve in Canada without proper aircraft evasion skills.

Oh, and US Airways should be applauded. Take some responsibility, people, if you choose to do something like fly on an airplane, that’s your choice and nobody owes you compensation for things like counseling if an accident happens during your free-will choice to defy gravity.

Eric
Guest

Require TCAS in all foul flying within 5 nm of a terminal control area?? lol

Bravo to Dougie and friends for being ahead of the curve on this and building on the competence of the crew. This is a rare case where an accident may help an airline’s public image.

Monty
Guest

Brian January 21st, 2009 at 3:05 pm, nearly killed by that “company’s service”……. I think it was the evil birds that almost killed those people on that plane, you know how mad all the birds can get about us people flying in the sky!!
Maybe we should sue the National Audubon Society for supporting the birds.

anukexpat
Guest

They didn’t try and slip in a “cashing this check will signify you agreement that this payment is in full and final settlement of any and all claims that may arise out of this incident”?

Fashion Jewellery
Guest

The girls also claim they are not being fairly compensated for their skis and fine jewelry, so perhaps the selection of Jason Gibson was based on that loss rather their being forced to run into an open field from a smouldering airplane.

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