Yemenia Airways have been handed the maximum fine by a French court over a fatal plane crash in Comoros in 2009.
Yemen's national airline was convicted of “manslaughter and unintentional injuries” and given a fine of €225,000. The company was also ordered to pay two associations more than €1 million in legal fees and damages.
It has always denied any responsibility for the crash that killed 152 people, including 65 French citizens. Yemenia has indicated that it will appeal the verdict.
Flight 626 was heading from Paris to Moroni -- the capital of the Comoros islands -- after stopping in Marseille and Sanaa in Yemen.
The aircraft went down during strong winds in the Indian Ocean, around 15 kilometres off the Comorian coast on 30 June. All but one of the 142 passengers and 11 crew members on board the Airbus A310 died.
French aviation investigators ruled that the accident was not caused by a "technical problem or explosion" and blamed a series of pilot errors, which stalled the engines.
On Wednesday, Yemenia Airways was found guilty of not training its pilots properly for nighttime flights to Comoros. No representatives of the company attended the Paris trial.
"The court found that Yemenia Airways had complied with the regulations, however, it retained two negligent acts directly linked to the accident," the court stated.
"The imprudence committed by the company demonstrates a lack of safety culture and responsibility."
The sole survivor of the crash – 12-year-old Bahia Bakari – was found by a rescue boat after 11 hours, clinging to floating plane debris. She suffered a broken collarbone, a broken hip, burns and other injuries, and her mother died in the crash.
Bakari – now aged 25 – was praised for giving powerful evidence during the trial. "I don't suffer any physical effects, but my mother is gone. I was very close to her," she testified, in tears.
Other witnesses had claimed that Yemenia was more interested in profits than in taking care of its passengers.
In 2015, the airline was ordered by two French courts to pay more than €30 million to victims’ families after civil proceedings.
Three years later, a confidential agreement was signed between Yemenia and 835 beneficiaries, although they did not receive compensation for several more years.