After refusing for more than year to provide any corporate records to assist compensation claim against it, Malaysia Airlines has suddenly changed course and agreed to hand over almost all of the documents it has been so desperate to keep secret.
The surprise development emerged during a Federal Court directions hearing in Sydney on Tuesday in a case involving the adult children of four MH370 passengers — Rod and Mary Burrows, and Bob and Cathy Lawton.
It is thought to be the most advanced of all court actions against Malaysia Airlines and the lead insurer, global aviation insurance heavyweight, Allianz.
The agreement came as a total shock to the families’ lawyer, aviation specialist John Dawson.
It is the realisation of a wish list he has been hounding the airline for more than a year to produce — the families hope the documents will assist and even speed up their claims for damages well beyond the offer that is on the table.
The ABC understands Allianz is offering payments capped at $250,000 for each Australian victim.
Payments of $50,000 per passenger were made more than a year ago in line with Montreal Treaty, which sets out the broad obligations of airlines and insurers, but the relatives are setting their sights far higher, hoping the document trove promised by the carrier may contain evidence of incompetency and failures that further their cause.
For that reason alone, the potential significance of the changed attitude to releasing documents is not fully understood.
Allianz Australia spokesman Nicholas Schofield would say only this:
“AGCS can confirm its position as lead reinsurer for the aviation hull and liability coverage.”
“The loss of flight MH370 is clearly an exceptional event but, as with all claims, we cannot comment on the details of this case, particularly in relation to matters that are before the courts.”
The documents include:
- The most recent medical certificate held by each member of the flight crew, including both cockpit crew and cabin crew;
- The most recent pilots licence held by the crew;
- Any operational notes logs or records held by the airline in relation to the flight;
- Procedures for carrying dangerous goods;
- Procedures for loss of radio contact, flying over oceans, and what to do in the event of hijacking;
- The operations manual for the plane, including flight deck security; and
- The flight plan lodged by the captain with air traffic control.
For any other aircraft it is a mundane list — but when its MH370, anything and everything that sheds new light, no mater how dim, is welcome news.