Friday, August 12, 2005

Survivor's Guilt

That's the only explanation I can come up with for the latest development in the Air France Flight 358 incident (for lack of a better word). This is the flight that landed at the Toronto Airport, was hit by lightning, skidded off the runway and was evacuated completely successfully by the crew in approximately 90 seconds so all 309 passengers were safely off the plane before it became engulfed in flames.
Touted by many as a miracle, Air France stated that since their crew spends hours training to accomplish just this type of swift evacuation they felt it was less of a miracle and credit should go to the crew.
Now I understand that certainly it was a traumatic event. I certainly hope to never have to be evacuated from a plane or to be on a plane that skids off the runway. And yes, I can see how this experience could cause such things as Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and back problems. And so perhaps Air France has some responsibility to help passengers with costs associated with dealing with that.
And apparently Air France has already given money to some passengers, but the amounts have differed which frustrated passengers. According to Air France the money was to compensate passengers who did not have access to their money since that and other belongings were left on board the plane.
And yes, it may turn out that there was some pilot error that led to the plane landing farther down the runway than it should have.
But a class action suit has been filed in Ontario for - according to the Washington Post - "$269 million in damages for trauma, any future medical expenses and loss of property and earnings".
So - my point. I accept that we live in a society that feels we should be compensated for any inconvenience we experience. And say this not to belittle the experience these people went through. But I have trouble understanding why - beyond reparation for lost belongings (which I believe is layed out fairly specifically on the back of your ticket) and possibly minimal compensation for psychological and/or medical trauma - I think that's it. I think you deserve very little for surviving.
I'm terribly sorry if this has affected people's ability to sleep, enjoy flying or get to their meetings on time. (And I do mean that, even if I sound a bit flip). But this is not the airline's fault. Even if there does turn out to be some pilot error (which we likely won't know about for months), I'm not convinced. (And yes, since we are without all the facts at this point, this may possibly change). The airline's responsibility is to get you there close to when they promised and safely.
And let's face it - all of those passengers got off that plane. As I stated, that wasn't the way they planned to exit, I'm sure - but everyone made it safely. Given the circumstances, I think that's incredible.
Note: I apologize, while I double checked my basic facts in the more recent articles in The Washington Post, I do not recall where I gathered all the bits and pieces.