Lufthansa has been accused of trying to limit the compensation payout to the family members of 2015’s Germanwings crash where all 144 passengers and six crew members were killed when the Airbus A320 slammed into the side of a mountain in the French Alps. Investigators concluded the First Officer, who had recently been diagnosed with possible psychosis, deliberately crashed the aircraft in a premeditated murder-suicide.
According to several German publications, Lufthansa is arguing that the passengers would not have known the plane was about to crash and therefore would not have suffered any distress before being instantly killed as the plane was torn apart on impact. The plane descended over 10-minutes, during which the Captain and flight attendants desperately tried to gain access to the flight deck.
The tragedy occurred on 24th March 2015, during what should have been a routine flight between Barcelona and Dusseldorf. The crew had already operated the outbound flight earlier that morning without incident but unbeknown to the Captain and cabin crew was the fact that the First Officer, Andreas Lubitz had been diagnosed with depression and possible psychosis, and had been recommended for hospital admission.
Lubitz had a prior history of depression but was allowed to continue flying as long as he didn’t have a relapse. It’s believed he decided to down the plane because he feared telling the airline his diagnosis would be the end of his flying career.
A short time after departure from Barcelona, the Captain left the flight deck to use the lavatory – at this point, the First Officer almost immediately set the altitude from 38,000 feet to just 100 feet. Over the course of the next 10 minutes, Lubitz ignored repeated calls from the cabin and from both civil and military air traffic controllers.
Central to Lufthansa’s argument is what would have seemed like a normal descent.
That, though, would seemingly ignore what must have been an incredibly distressing scene in the cabin. According to the official crash report “muffled voices were heard several times” through the cockpit door asking to be let in. There were also noises similar to someone knocking on the door on six separate occasions.
Cabin crew tried to call the flight deck on four occasions and “noises similar to violent blows on the cockpit door” were recorded five times – those are believed to have come from a fire axe that the Captain used in an attempt to break down the bulletproof door.
At the time of the accident, there was no requirement for a minimum of two people to be in the flight deck at any one time and to this day there is no outside emergency access process that can’t be overridden by the flight crew.
Lufthansa has apparently dodged questions about whether it is actually trying to limit the compensation payout and its unknown how many compensation claims are still outstanding. So far, Lufthansa has paid out €50,000 per victim in ’emergency aid’ and €25,000 in inheritance compensation. A further €10,000 in compensation was paid out per victim to other relatives and indiviual damages were calcuated on a case by case basis.
Investigators concluded that the airline could not have prevented the accident but did recommend a series of measures to improve mental health screening and support for flight crew.