Passengers On Upset Flight Sue Airline

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A $20 million class action lawsuit has been launched against Air Canada by passengers aboard a Toronto-Zurich flight that was mistakenly thrown into a dive by one of the pilots. As we reported, at least 16 people, 14 passengers and two flight attendants, were hurt when the first officer, who had just awoken from a sanctioned in-seat nap, spotted an oncoming Air Force C-17 and thought they were on a collision course. Moments before, he'd mistaken the planet Venus for the C-17. The military plane was 1,000 feet below the 767-300 at 12 o'clock. The FO pushed the Boeing into an emergency dive, dropping 400 feet. It then, just as abruptly, climbed 800 feet before settling into level flight with the captain under control. Seven of the injured were taken to hospital when the aircraft arrived in Zurich three hours later. But it wasn't the incident itself, which happened in January of 2011, that pushed the passengers to legal action. Their statement of claim alleges the airline "actively covered up the true cause of the terrifying episode."

The suit alleges Air Canada blamed turbulence for the upset, offered modest cash settlements to the injured and asked some passengers to sign indemnity waivers. It wasn't until Canada's Transportation Safety Board issued its report on the incident that the passengers learned what really happened, the suit alleges. "I have been lied to for 15 months by this airline," Jaragina-Sahoo told the Canadian Press. She was pregnant and was thrown against the ceiling of the aircraft. She accepted $3,500 for medical expenses and lost time at work from the airline. "Obviously, I would not have settled for the amount they offered me had I known it was a human error rather than just a course of nature." Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline considers the suit without merit and will defend itself.