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Alaska Airlines passengers sue Boeing over door plug blow-out

Alaska Airlines previously offered passengers $1,500 in compensation

Michelle Del Rey
Saturday 13 January 2024 01:30 GMT
Boeing boss admits mistake over Alaska Airlines plane door blow-out

Alaska Airlines passengers are suing Boeing in response to last week’s incident involving a domestic flight that resulted in a door-plug, a panel of the fuselage near the rear of the aircraft, blowing out of the plane mid-air.

The suit lists seven plaintiffs and was filed in the Superior Court of Washington for King County, where part of the emergency occurred. The 5 January incident took place at 16,000 feet as flight 1282 was departing from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California.

The aircraft made an emergency landing and returned to the airport it had departed from. It’s the first lawsuit to be filed in response to the explosive episode.

While it’s not yet known what caused the blowout on the Boeing 737 Max 9, officials have said that the incident stemmed from the plane depressurizing. As a result, a shirt, iPhones and other items were sucked out of the aircraft.

Several passengers were injured, but were medically cleared after professionals examined them, Alaska Airlines said in a statement. The complaint alleges that those on board suffered bleeding ears, bruises and headaches.

One passenger said her ears had so much pressure she thought her head would explode, the complaint states. Many oxygen masks also appeared to not be working during the flight.

The suit does not list a specific monetary amount being sought.

Approximately 171 people and six crew members were on board the flight. Four of them were minors, while three were lap children.

“Passengers were shocked, terrorized and confused, thrust into a waking nightmare, hoping they would live long enough to walk the earth again,” the court filings say.

Alaska Airlines offered passengers $1,500 in compensation, in addition to mental health resources and counseling sessions. The airline has not been named as a defendant.

In a written statement, Daniel Laurence, the attorney representing the plaintiffs said “This nightmare has caused economic, physical and ongoing emotional consequences that have understandably deeply affected our clients, and is one more disturbing black mark on the troubled 737-Max series aircraft.”

The 737 Max 9 series has been at the centre of recent tragedies. In October 2018, a faulty sensor on a Max 8 jet activated an anti-stall system that caused a plane to crash near Jakarta Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board.

In 2019, a Max 8 plane operating under Ethiopian Airlines crashed, resulting in the deaths of 157 people. During a town hall this week, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun, said the company would be “acknowledging our mistake” and would be working under complete transparency.

After the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) moved to pull all Max 9 models out of service. Since the decision was made, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines both reportedly found loose bolts on their models.

On Thursday, the agency announced it would be opening an investigation into the incident. It is the second probe levelled against the company in response to the emergency. The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the company.

On Friday evening, the FAA announced it would be asking Boeing to provide additional data before the aircrafts can return to the sky. It was originally thought that the planes would be cleared in inspections this week.

Hundreds of flights have been cancelled due to the grounding.

“We are working to make sure nothing like this happens again,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said. “Our only concern is the safety of American travelers and the Boeing 737-9 MAX will not return to the skies until we are entirely satisfied it is safe.”

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