Germanwings Crash

Lufthansa Calculates the Cost of a Life

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Students gather at a memorial to fellow pupils from the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium in Haltern am See in March.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Lufthansa’s reputation was badly hit by the crash and now it will be judged on how it deals with the families of those who died.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • German aviation lawyer Elmar Giemulla is acting for the families of those killed in the Germanwings crash.
    • Lufthansa said insurers have set aside $300 million to deal with costs arising from the crash.
    • Lufthansa has said that the airline will pay more compensation to families that have lost their main breadwinner.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

Lufthansa’s chief executive Carsten Spohr was facing the biggest challenge of his career. An aircraft belonging to his company’s low-cost subsidiary Germanwings had just crashed, after a co-pilot, apparently deliberately, crashed the aircraft into the Alps, killing all those on board. It was the kind of accident that can destroy companies, and their leaders.

Mr. Spohr took full responsibility for dealing with the crash, which occured on March 24, and its aftermath. Bespectacled and calm, he became the face of the crisis and earned praise for the way he handled it.

But now there is a new phase of the crisis, and this presents a new set of challenges for Lufthansa. A very public fight has broken out over the amount of compensation that should be paid to the families of the victims, and the fall out could damage Germany’s largest airline, and Mr. Spohr.

The dispute is an emotive one. Lufthansa’s nemesis here is Elmar Giemulla, a 64-year-old German aviation lawyer, who is representing some of the families. He has worked with the relatives of people killed in some of the worst airline crashes of modern time.

Most notably, he has represented the families of the victims of the Lockerbie crash in Scotland in 1988, the 2000 Concorde crash in Paris and the 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine.

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