Air France has announced it will begin compensating families of the victims of its airline that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean this month in the worst aviation disaster in years. The company has also refused to comment for now on speculation the plane may have broken up in mid-air.

The announcement that families of crash victims would be compensated was made by Air France's CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon during an interview on French radio.

Gourgeon said Air France would pay about $24,000 for each victim of the crash. He said Air France lawyers are in contact about the payments with families of the 228 victims who come from many different countries.

He did not suggest the compensation meant that Air France admitted blame in the crash and said the company had responded appropriately to any safety problems that arose in Airbus planes. Investigators have been focusing on speed sensors as a possible cause of the crash.

Gourgeon also refused to comment on speculation that the airplane may have broken up in midair. Some experts suggest this may be a possibility because autopsies of the victims recovered have reveal fractures in their limbs.

And he held out hope that the planes black boxes, believed to be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, might be found. French Investigators are due to present a preliminary report on the accident by the end of June.

The crash has deepened problems at Air France, which like many airlines is struggling to cope with the financial crisis. The company has already announced it would cut 3,000 jobs over the next two financial years and Gourgeon said it might need to cut 3,000 more jobs through attrition.