BERLIN/FRANKFURT Lufthansa is taking around 650 relatives of those killed in last year's Germanwings disaster to France by plane or bus where they will attend a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the crash on Thursday.
On March 24, 2015, co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew a A320 jet into a French mountainside on a flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, killing all 150 on board.
Investigators later uncovered that 27-year-old Lubitz was suffering from a suspected "psychotic depressive episode" that started in December 2014, months before the fatal crash, but that he had concealed his illness from his employer.
"We are doing everything we can to lessen the blow for the relatives, if that is at all possible," Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said last week in Frankfurt.
He said Lufthansa had paid compensation of at least 100,000 euros ($112,000), and in some cases millions of euros, per passenger.
On Thursday, Lufthansa will also unveil memorial plaques to the victims in Duesseldorf and Barcelona.
In a report published 10 days ago, French air accident investigators who had examined pilot mental health and doctor-patient confidentiality, recommended Germany clarify its rules on when doctors could break confidentiality.
"There are international laws that oblige airline companies to maintain their planes in almost perfect conditions. Now, if that's true, as far as the airplanes are concerned, what about those who pilot those airplanes?" Robert Oliver, the father of one of the victims, told Reuters.
Germany's ruling coalition has put forward a proposal for random drug and alcohol tests on pilots, and another calling for a medical database that lists pilots by their name, rather than under a pseudonym, as is currently the case.
Markus Wahl, a board member at the German pilot union Vereinigung Cockpit, welcomed the call for clearer guidelines on medical secrecy.
"Doctors... tend to err on the side of caution and prefer not to report anything unusual," Wahl said.
But the Bundesaerztekammer, the national medical association to which the French report's recommendations were addressed, disagreed rules on confidentiality should be softened.
President Frank Ulrich Montgomery instead welcomed the proposed database and said pilots should undergo more frequent checks if anything out of the ordinary is noticed.
Lawyers representing the families of those killed have also said Lubitz, with his history of depression, should have been more closely monitored. But experts say mental issues can be easily hidden.
"Patients can easily conceal their true frame of mind. It's easy to pretend that everything is OK, even when inside it's not," aeromedical doctor Irene Hufnagel told Reuters.
($1 = 0.8952 euros)
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan and Peter Maushagen; Additional reporting by Reuters TV; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
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