US aircraft manufacturer Boeing has said it will pay $100m (£80m) to families and communities affected by the two crashes involving its 737 Max aircraft, in which 346 people were killed.
Boeing, which is facing dozens of lawsuits over the accidents, said some of the money would go towards the living expenses of the families of those involved in the fatal crashes and to alleviate any financial hardship they were facing.
The payouts, phased over several years, will be independent of any lawsuits relating to the accidents, Boeing said.
Relatives of passengers on a Lion Air flight that crashed off the coast of Indonesia in October 2018 have agreed to try to settle with the company through mediation but families of passengers killed in an Ethiopian Airlines crash just over four months later are waiting until more is known about the cause of the accident.
“The families and loved ones of those on board have our deepest sympathies, and we hope this initial outreach can help bring them comfort,” said Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg.
The $100m fund will also be spent on education and community programmes, as well as economic development in communities that have suffered, Boeing said in a statement.
The plane manufacturer promised to form partnerships with local governments and non-profit organisations “to address these needs”.
The company said in April that it expects the crashes to cost it more than $1bn, as the firm cancelled its financial outlook for 2019 and scrapped plans to reward shareholders by offering to buy back some of their stock.
Muilenburg said at the time: “We have great sorrow for the families affected. This weighs heavily on us.”
The 737 has been the bestselling jet series in Boeing’s history, with more than 15,000 orders, about 5,000 of which were for the fourth-generation 737 Max.
But the model remains grounded around the world, having been taken out of service in March after the second fatal crash in four months.
Although investigations continue, MCAS, an automated anti-stall system, has been implicated in both crashes, amid concern it repeatedly pushed the nose of the aircraft down, despite the pilots’ efforts. US safety regulators have since identified a further problem with the model and the generation of planes that preceded the 737 Max.
The Federal Aviation Administration has told airlines to check more than 300 737 aircraft, including 179 of the Max model, for improperly manufactured parts.
United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have all extended their bans on using the Boeing 737 Max to beyond August, after the warning from the US aviation regulator.
Boeing remains under investigation by regulators around the world over the fatal incidents.
But it has won support from International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of British Airways, which last month announced plans to buy 200 Boeing 737 Max aircraft, the first new sales deal since it was grounded.
IAG and Boeing revealed a “letter of intent” for the huge order logged at the Paris airshow, in a significant boost to the US manufacturer after its rival Airbus appeared to be stealing a march on it with big orders and the launch of a competing model.
The fleet of planes, a mixture of 737 Max 8 and Max 10 variants, would be valued at about $25bn at list prices but IAG said it had secured a substantial discount, likely to be more than usual considering Boeing’s difficult circumstances.