- Several families of the victims of the two Boeing 737 Max crashes say Boeing has not contacted them to offer support, condolences, or an apology.
- Boeing has apologised publicly, but the father of a woman killed in one of the crashes says “a true apology is when you sit across the table together and exchange sentiment – at the very least.”
- One aviation lawyer said that while it’s not unusual for a plane manufacturer not to apologise after a crash, he did not think an apology would hurt Boeing’s legal standing.
- Boeing told Business Insider it “extends our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the families and loved ones” on the planes. It did not respond to a question about why it had not spoken with families directly.
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Families of those killed in two fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 Max planes say they have not received any contact from Boeing since the disasters, with no apology or offer of support from the manufacturer.
The parents of a woman killed on one of the flights told Business Insider they had received “no condolences” and “no direct communication” from Boeing despite numerous public apologies by the plane maker and said Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg “talks to other people but not us, the victims’ families.”
Nadia Milleron and Michael Stumo lost their 24-year-old daughter, Samya Stumo, when the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed in March, killing all 157 people on board.
It was the second crash of a 737 Max plane in five months after a Max 8 operated by the Indonesian carrier Lion Air crashed in the Java Sea in October, killing all 189 people on board.
Investigations into both crashes have centered on a software issue that Boeing has since been working to fix, with all its Max aircraft grounded around the world in the meantime.
Other attorneys representing more than 50 families of those killed in the crashes told Business Insider their clients’ experience was the same.
The Chicago-based aviation attorney Joe Power, the Los-Angeles based attorney Brian Kabateck, and the Miami-based attorney Steve Marks said Boeing had not reached out to their clients.
Marks said that this response was not “unusual” from manufacturers after a crash, but he described Boeing’s reaction as “worse” than a typical response.
He said Boeing “came out really quickly after the second tragedy, and said: ‘We own it, it’s our problem.'”
But then, he said, the company “has since backed those comments off, in many different ways, which I think has only inflamed the situation, as far as the families are concerned.”
Mike Danko, an aviation attorney who is not representing any families in the 737 Max crashes, told Business Insider that Boeing’s action in this case were “not unusual” and that manufacturers typically did not apologise or offer support after fatal plane crashes, but he noted its public apologies.
In a statement to Business Insider, Boeing said it “extends our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the families and loved ones of those onboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610.”
It said it was “cooperating fully with the investigating authorities.”
Boeing did not address Business Insider’s question about why it had not spoken with families directly.
Boeing has repeatedly publicly apologised for the crashes. Its CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, first apologised in a Boeing video in April, three weeks after the second crash. In the video, he said that the company was “sorry for the lives lost” and that the “tragedies continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and mind.”
During that statement Muilenburg also said Boeing was working to update the plane to ensure that no similar crashes ever occurred again.
Muilenburg apologised publicly to the victims in May, saying Boeing was “sorry for the loss of lives in both accidents” and “sorry for the impact to the families and loves ones that are behind.”
He also said the company did not implement software to the plane “correctly.”
And at the Paris Air Show in June, Muilenburg said that Boeing “made a mistake” in handling the system and that Boeing’s communication was “not acceptable.”
Milleron and Stumo told Business Insider that Muilenburg “never apologised for killing our daughter.”
Stumo said Boeing “put a camera in Muilenburg’s face,” referring to his video apology in April.
“A true apology is when you sit across the table together and exchange sentiment – at the very least.”
Milleron said the apology needed to say: “I did this wrong thing to you and I am sorry. I regret this specific wrong that I did to you.”
“That’s an actual apology,” she said. “If they just say they are sorry to a camera, not to the actual persons that they have harmed, that is not an apology at all.
“I don’t understand how he could possibly think so, and I don’t think the American people see that as an actual apology.”
More families did come forward to sue Boeing after the company’s first apology in April, but Danko said apologizing or offering support to the families was unlikely to harm the company’s legal position.
“If anything, an apology can lead lower settlements, especially in cases involving death,” he said.
Boeing did not respond to Business Insider’s question about whether it thought apologizing to families directly would harm its legal strategy, and it said it would not comment on the lawsuits directly.
Danko said Boeing could offer condolences and support to families without offering a full apology by saying something like: “We’re so sorry for what happened and for the unspeakable loss you’ve experienced. We haven’t yet gotten to the bottom of what happened but are committed to doing so. We want to make sure that no one else has to go through what you’re going through now. We will not rest and our plane will not fly again until we’re 100% convinced of that.”
Boeing has been working with regulators as the US Federal Aviation Administration prepares to examine its updated software for the plane. The software needs to be approved before the plane can fly again.
Boeing has also been in contact with airlines since the crashes as they await the plane’s return and as some ask for compensation.
Muilenburg said in June that Boeing was “going to be working with all of our customers around the world to make things right” and that the company was working with them “individually customer by customer.”
Do you work at Boeing or the FAA, or are you a pilot? Got a tip or a story to share? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +353 86 335 0386 using a non-work phone, or email her at [email protected], or Twitter DM her at @sineadbaker1.
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