There are so many speculations on the recent crisis pertaining flight MH370 which could distract and hamper the search and rescue activities currently underway in the South China Seas.
Fortunately, the management of this crisis has been handled very well by Malaysia Airlines and the relevant authorities. With the Department of Civil Aviation taking charge of the search and rescue missions, it is commendable on the part of the agencies involved to remain professional in their duties.
The management of the crisis could have gone either way and it is a mark of true professionalism that Malaysia Airlines so far is on the dot in the proper procedures in handling this serious incident. Below is an article from the Business Insider which could have been taken as a case study on what not to do during an aviation crisis.
Asiana Airlines Needs Serious Help With Crisis Management
As the FAA and NTSB continue to investigate the July 6th accident in which 3 were killed and 182 were injured at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), crisis management experts are scratching their heads at the perplexing response of Asiana Airlines.
Crisis Management protocols
When there is a crisis, the proper procedure is for PR-savvy company representatives to talk with the public through the media to reassure them that everything is being done to investigate the cause and insure the safety of the airline and the wellbeing of its passengers.
The idea is to get ahead of the story and make current and future customers as comfortable as possible in doing business with the Airline. As Korea’s second biggest airline, Asiana needs to make every effort to take care of its passengers and protect its reputation while allaying the fears of the flying public.
Asiana, however, has done the opposite of what crisis management protocols suggest. With the exception of a brief apology to victims and families a day after the crash, Asiana has been largely silent. When CEO Yoon Young-doo arrived at SFO airport 3 days after the accident, he declined to comment. Even more surprising, the airline did not have a trained public relations representative accompany the CEO to address the media either. The following day, six of twelve flight attendants appeared at a news conference, but none of them said a word, and some hid their faces. It appears they don’t know that when you are silent, many in the public think you are hiding something. While lawyers often recommend you don’t talk, marketers know that silence is the opposite of what a company faced with such a crisis should do.
Attempt to silence passengers
What’s even worse is the Airline has instructed passengers not to talk with anyone. On Wednesday, CBS This Morning featured a story about the Xu family who told reporter Carter Evans in an interview he taped on his iPhone that the Airline controlled nearly every aspect of their lives and told them not to speak with the media. In fact, when the reporter arrived at their hotel, airline security tried to prevent him from speaking with the family. Since these efforts to stifle the media appeared on camera on a major news broadcast, they supported what the Xu family was saying and raised further suspicions about Asiana.
Even though the pilots involved in the crash were novices landing and supervising the landing of a Boeing 777 at SFO, they pointed the finger at the automatic speed controls of the plane. According to the head of the NTSB, there are no signs of failure of the automatic speed controls or other automatic flight equipment on the plane that crashed. Such accusations by the pilots do nothing to inspire public confidence – especially since the early evidence points to pilot error as a potential cause of the accident. Also, the fact that this is the first fatal accident involving a Boeing 777, which has a record of being one of the safest planes in the sky, makes the finger-pointing even more suspicious.
While flying is the safest form of travel, it is a risky business for those involved in making and flying the planes. When bad things happen, the best companies can do is to quickly figure out the problem and be forthcoming with customers. What can any business learn from this latest incident involving Asiana Airlines? Employ the fact procedure to protect your reputation.
- Admit the problem, and apologize if necessary (do not “point the finger” at others because it is likely to compromise your credibility).
- Limit the scope (in this case put the incident in perspective and provide data that shows that flying on a Boeing 777 from Asiana is very safe).
- Propose a solution so it will not happen again (if it is found to be the cause, a more rigorous training and pilot supervision program would be the solution).
If implementing the fact procedure is premature
In a case such as this when the cause of the accident is not yet known with certainty, the airline should not be silent as Asiana has been. And, it should not try to control what the passengers say to the media. This just fuels suspicion. It should make it clear to the flying public that it (1) is doing everything in its power to cooperate with the investigation and (2) will continue to do whatever is necessary to insure the safety of its airline and the wellbeing of its passengers.
Since Asiana has proven to be inept in this crisis, and some believe this may be a cultural issue, it should hire US crisis management experts for advice to protect its reputation going forward.