JAKARTA/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Insurers have begun processing claims in the crash of an Indonesia AirAsia aircraft last month and hope to identify the beneficiaries by the end of January, an official from Indonesia’s financial regulator said on Tuesday.
Recovery teams, meanwhile, made patchy progress Tuesday in the search for bodies from the wreckage of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, finding the remains of just two more victims on the tenth day of operations.
Hindered by rough seas, the teams have found fewer than 40 bodies since the plane crashed during a storm early on Dec 28, carrying 162 people from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.
Recovery workers are also yet to find the “black box” flight data recorders, crucial to determining the cause of the crash, although they have located five major parts of the plane on the seabed including a “suspected tail” – where flight recorders are usually housed.
Speculation about insurance payments surfaced after Indonesia’s transport ministry said the airline only had permission to fly the plane’s Surabaya-Singapore route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The flight which crashed took off on Sunday, Dec 28.
Firdaus Djaelani, non-bank financial institutions supervisor at the Indonesian financial services authority, told reporters that the incident remained “claimable” despite the confusion over the route permit.
“AirAsia didn’t fall because it was a Sunday,” he said, adding that initial investigations showed that weather appeared to have been a factor. “Whatever the reason, the airline has to be responsible for its passengers.”
The “money has been prepared”, he added.
Indonesia AirAsia, 49 per cent owned by Malaysia-based AirAsia, has made little comment on the route permissioning, but said it would fully cooperate with investigations.
The next of kin of each passenger will get up to 1.25 billion rupiah (US$98,853) from the airline’s insurers, PT Asuransi Jasa Indonesia and Asuransi Sinar Mas, Djaelani said.
Allianz SE, the lead reinsurance firm, has declined comment on the extent of its exposure, or to identify others exposed to the crash of the Airbus A320-200.
Some passengers may have taken an additional insurance policy via the airline from PT Asuransi Dayin Mitra, Djaelani added.
Elizabeth Quendangen, tech-nical deputy director at Asuransi Dayin Mitra, said the additional payout could be up to 750 million rupiah for each passenger.
The plane had 162 passengers and crew on board when it crashed into the Java Sea around 40 minutes into a flight from the Indonesian town of Surabaya to Singapore.
All are presumed dead.
Aviation lawyers told Reuters that the insurers will be liable for almost all of the compensation paid by the airline.
Indonesia is not a signatory to the Montreal Convention, which sets the liability of passengers killed in commercial air accidents to around $170,000 each.
Its airlines are liable under the older Warsaw Convention which limits compensation to around $10,000.
However, in the aftermath of a January, 2007 crash of a plane operated by Indonesia’s Adam Air, the now defunct carrier offered families around $55,000 each.
Families, therefore, can expect more than the Warsaw Convention allows for, said lawyers.