Asiana Decides Not to Sue TV Station for Damage to its Reputation

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Asiana Airlines, its lawsuit plate already filling up after the fatal crash of Flight 214 at San Francisco Airport, has decided not to sue Bay Area station KTUV-TV for its contribution to the latest edition of “Who Is Sorry This Week in California?”

The airline claimed its reputation was deeply damaged when news co-anchor Tori Campbell read a supposed list of the four pilots involved in the crash that included “Captain Sum Ting Wong” and “Wi Tu Lo.” Those names are insultingly bogus, as are “Bang Ding Ow” and  “Ho Lee Fuk”—the last is profane when sounded out phonetically. The broadcast went viral on the Internet. 

But to win a lawsuit it would probably have to show that its reputation, and business, was materially injured by the broadcast. It could be argued there are other factors contributing to Asiana’s diminished brand.

Three people were killed and more than 100 were injured when its Boeing 777 smashed into a sea wall while landing at the airport on July 6. On Monday, the first lawsuit was filed against the airline by two survivors in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the suit alleges that the airline “failed to observe the most fundamental procedures for a visual landing approach into SFO, failed to appropriately monitor flight conditions on approach, and failed to communicate and react in the cockpit to those flight conditions.” The suit seeks at least $5 million and is certainly to be followed by more once there is an official determination of what caused the accident.

While Asiana did not back off its claim that the TV station had defamed it, the company issued a release that it wanted to “keep all of its resources dedicated to caring for the passengers and family members of Asiana flight 214 and supporting the investigation into the cause of the accident.”

The television station apologized for its mistake almost immediately after the incident and blamed a summer intern at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for confirming the names as real when the station called. The NTSB apologized for the error, saying it is their policy not to “release or confirm the names of crewmembers or people involved in transportation accidents to the media.”

The NTSB fired the intern.

As of Wednesday night, no one was stepping forward to admit authorship of the racist news copy, and the station’s apology, read by anchor Frank Somerville, made no mention of the culprit. He said the pilot names had not been read out loud before the on-air embarrassment. The names were spelled out in a graphic displayed by the station during the broadcast.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Asiana Airlines Decides Not to Sue Bay Area TV Station (by Victoria Kim and Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times)

TV Station, NTSB Apologize in Prank Asiana Pilot Names (by Kate Mather and Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times)

Asiana Sued by Two Passengers in San Francisco Crash (by  Karen Gullo, Bloomberg)

Asiana Airlines’ Idiotic Lawsuit Threat (by Erik Wemple, Washington Post)

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