Boeing criticised for 737 MAX donation

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The families of victims of an Ethiopian air disaster criticised Boeing’s plan to donate $100 million to unspecified charities and communities affected by two crashes, saying it was vague and families should have been consulted.

Some families said last week’s announcement from the US aircraft manufacturer triggered an avalanche of unwelcome phone calls from relatives and acquaintances who believed they received just compensation.

“This is unacceptable. They did not consult us, we only learned this morning,” said Quindos Karanja, a retired Kenyan teacher whose wife, daughter and three grandchildren were killed in the March 10 disaster. “This is not in good faith.”

The crash of the Boeing 737 MAX jet came five months after the same model aircraft plunged into the sea off Indonesia. The disasters killed a total of 346 people, triggered global grounding of the aircraft and wiped billions off Boeing’s market value.

“It’s like adding salt to a wound … They haven’t consulted any families,” Kenyan lawyer Kabau-Wanyoike, whose younger brother George was aboard the doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight, told Reuters. Her family lodged a lawsuit against Boeing and she said they wanted answers on aviation safety.

“My parents are being disturbed by people calling to ask ‘has the money come?’,” she added.

Another Kenyan, who asked not to be identified, said his family was also concerned about security in a nation where kidnappings for ransom occur frequently.

“Boeing want to show they have a good name, but they could be putting victims at risk,” he said, adding he did not oppose Boeing supporting charities, but it could be done more discreetly.

Boeing said the multi-year pay-out was not connected to lawsuits more than 100 families have filed.

It did not specify how the money would be divided, which organisations would benefit or how it might relate to victims’ families.

Nomi Husain, a US lawyer representing seven families, said his clients, including the Kabau family, all reacted badly to the announcement.

“They are saying: ‘If` they want to help us, don’t they know who we are? Don’t they have our names?’” he said.

“They can’t change the storyline that they put profit over safety.”

Asked to comment, a Boeing spokesman said: “All I can add to our release is the pledge is absolutely independent of lawsuits filed. This step will support education, hardship and living expenses for affected families, community programmes and economic development in those communities.”