Case Study Summary for the US Airways (Li Li)

Background: US Airways was set up in 1939. It was an international airplane company. Its CEO was Doug Parker. The headquarters company was located in the Tempe, Arizona. US Airways had developed the company’s crisis communications plan several years. In April 2008, James Olson joined US Airways as Vice President. US Airways Flight 1549 was one of domestic commercial passenger flights for US Airways. It flew from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Problem: On January 15th, 2009, when US Airways Flight 1549 took off for just a minute, this flight was struck by a flock of birds. Two energies of Airbus A320 lost power. The first officer in the flight reported this bad news to the control tower and decided to come back to the LaGuardia Airport. However, Captain Chesley Sullenberger analyzed that it was hard for the flight to turn round and return the previous airport. He attempted an emergency landing in Teterboro Airport n New Jersey, but he also found that it was dangerous for the flight to land in Teterboro Airport. Finally, Captain Chesley Sullenberger made a decision to bring the plane down on the Hudson River. 150 passengers were rescued from this aircraft and nobody got die. Although US Airways Flight 1549 decreased the degree of injury in this aircraft accident, they still needed to solve the side effects for the transport crisis. They needed to placate the panics for the transport crisis and kept the customers’ loyalty to their planes.

Situation (SWOT) Analysis: There were two strengths for US Airways to cope with this transport crisis. The first one was that US Airways had such an experienced captain Sullenberger in the US Ariways Flight 1549. His rich experience and rational analysis maximized the transport crisis. The second strength for US Airways was that the relevant internal crews cared about this transport crisis. They realized their responsibility and swiftly took measures to cope with the crisis. The weakness for US Airways to handle this crisis was that they could not make a commitment to make sure this kind of transport crisis would not happen again. Anyone could not control the birds. As a result, we could not prevent the birds from hitting the plane. The panic to take a plane was hard to eliminate for customers. The opportunity for US Airways to solve the crisis was that the company had a “tabletop drill” in 2008. It helped them to update the company’s crisis communications plan and become skilled to cope with the similar crisis. The threat for the company to handle the crisis was that Olson watched the CNN without finding the facts when he heard about the bird struck. When expert were not expert, the non-expert expert appealed to viewers on emotion not fact. When Olson watched this kind of statement, he would not know the actual situation. It would be hard for Olson to make an effective crisis management plan. Therefore, Olson should choose to ask the details through the intranet.

Strategies (decisions or behaviors): After the bird struck, US Airways took several measures to salve this transportation crisis. They were:

  1. The Executive Vice President, People and Communications—Elise Eberwein and Senior Manager, Corporate Communications—Michelle Mohr and Morgan Durrant all came back to LaGuardia when they heard about the transport crisis.
  2. CEO Doug Parker described the problem to the bankers and dismissed them, then he designated corporate command center in the boardroom when he listened to the news.
  3. Olson set up the crisis war room when he knew the transport crisis.
  4. The phones were installed within minutes after the crisis was struck.
  5. The Corporate Communications team at US Airways insisted that it was important to be more accurate than fast when they released the news.
  6. An emergency response was established between key company personnel and the Federal Aviation Administration.
  7. When US Airways Flight 1549 evacuated the passengers, Captain Sullenberger returned to the plane and made sure all the people were off.
  8. US Airways released their first news and their CEO conducted a press briefing covered after they got the accurate news.
  9. The care Team of employees trained from different work groups was send to New York. They gave away cell phones and clothing to passengers and prepare accommodation for their family members. Besides that, the Family Support Hotline was provided for the family members to connect with the passengers.
  10. CEO Parker sent letters to Flight 1549’s passengers twice to commit to compensate for the transport crisis, such as a check, additional reimburse, recovering personal items.


Consequences (Results): The transport accident made people incredible, besides that, US Airways got other responds. They were:

  1. All the different apartments and publics assisted US Airways to save the passengers in the plane.
  2. Writer Dean Foust who came from Business Week praised US Airways’ care of passengers. He thought US Airways was a model of transport crisis management.
  3. A Baltimore attorney—James J. Hanks praise the pilot and crew in the US Airways Flight 1549 and US Airways Care Team for their sincere behaviors.
  4. Maryann Bruce was very surprise and happy for getting back her lost diamond ring and another item.
  5. New York Mayor Bloomberg invited CEO Parker to applaud the crew and the first responders.
  6. The incident was regarded as “The Miracle on the Hudson” for publics.


My comments: This transport crisis is really a miracle on the Hudson. I appreciate the behaviors for both the crew in the plane and US Airways, especially the decision which made by Captain Sullenberger. When coping with the bird struck, I think the Captain Sullenberger applied to the decision Theory—maximizing. He could land in the Teterboro Airport, however; he considered that it was not the best one. He considered the possible benefit of each alternative and maximized the damages. From this transport crisis, I feel that it is not worried to encounter a crisis. When we handle the crisis, it is correct to response to a media request with telling the media all the actual information. I agree with the idea of US Airways “to be more accurate than fast”. 

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5 Responses to Case Study Summary for the US Airways (Li Li)

  1. dijiang313 says:

    In your summary, you mentioned decision theory when the captain Sullenberger had to choose a landing place. This reminded me to think about how a terrible decision made by the Exxon CEO Lawrence G. Rawl. The theory suggests that the decision maker should consider the possible benefit of each alternative. Obviously, the Exxon CEO didn’t get benefit from his decisions, for example, he didn’t immediately fly to the crisis site enraged the public. However, the captain made a right decision because of his rich experiences, and he became a hero in people’s mind.

    • lilly1989 says:

      I think the success of a company to handle the crisis depends on the strive from all the crews in a company. The corporate culture and climate is also important to help their employees to make decisions. US Airways awarded the first responders which I feel is a good way to encourage their employees to work hard. This case study lets us see the difference between US Airways and Exxon.

  2. rangmoen20 says:

    You hit the nail at the right spot( Li Li) . it really takes a whole wealth of experience for the pilot to take the perfect decision he did…. it still amazes me how professional Captain Sullenberger is , i got respect for that dude always.

  3. kurtcomm642 says:

    The way US Airways responded is certainly a contrast to another major PR meltdown currently play out with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. They should take a lesson.

  4. Clark Feng says:

    I consider that the strategies of your summary is a wonderful part. You gave us some suggestion to solve relevant problems like this crisis.

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