Jan. 15, 2009, US Airways fight 1549 leaving New York’s LaGuardia Airport for Charlotte, North Carolina, was down. This accident was happened just after US Airways’s simulated catastrophic accident “tabletop drill” in October 2008.
“When News is Wrong, When Experts are Not Experts.” There are non-expert expert seen on television and online a lot. They focus on the emotion of viewers not fact. Also, the new media, especially television and online media, often get facts wrong to be first rather than factual. How to beat these new media’s untrue information and don’t let them affect the fame of organization is the biggest problem.
The strength for US Airways to handle the crisis was that they were prepared. The company has its own crisis communication plan, and they hire new professional employee like James Olson to renew old crisis communication plan; the company held “tabletop drill” to test the plan, once they met the real accident, they know how to handle it; once they learned the accident, their actions were very fast, they established media war room within ten minutes of the accident and first pressed release issued 40 minutes after accident; the organization shared information with employees early and often, they cared about the passengers and balance facts with emotion. The weakness of US Airways to work with the crisis was they could not beat the speed of news release with new media. This could let some new media gave the public wrong information and let the public misunderstand the company. Basically, the biggest weakness of US Airways was that the air accident. They didn’t protect the customer well. The opportunity for US Airways is that in this crisis, the company learned how to handle these kind of crisis better in the future; also, the company did really good after the crisis, they cared about the passengers so much and even had 1-year anniversary about this crisis, these actions really give the company a good fame. The threat for the company to work with this crisis was the new media. The new media, especially television and online media, often get facts wrong in their quest to be first rather than factual, the company can easily to lose customers and the respect of employees; this is a threat to the company for this crisis.
After the accident, US Airways communication team took a lot of actions, the detail were:
- The communication team of the company included Elise Eberwein (Senior Manager), Michelle Mohr (Senior Manager), Morgan Durrant (Senior Manager), Doug Parker (CEO) and James Olson (Vice president) were back to work immediately to handle this crisis.
- Mohr started to prepare for the local news media that would descend on the airport.
- Durrant caught the next fight to LaGuardia to provide on-side support.
- Parker dismissed the bankers out of the boardroom immediately, which was the designated corporate command center.
- Olson leaded the team to set up the crisis war room and installed all the equipment in need.
- Olson and the communication team activated the emergency response plan immediately.
- An emergency response “bridge line” was established.
- The first news release was issued 45 minutes. Additional news releases and internal message followed in the hours and date that followed.
- Company communication team worked with market team to leverage search engines like Yahoo and Google to dedicate Fight 1549 micro site.
10. The care team of employees trained to provided cell phones and clothing for passengers.
- 11. The family support hotline set up for family members to call to get information.
12. The care team use the special emergency credit card to book hotel rooms and buy essentials for passengers.
13. The January 26 new conference was announced in a news release.
- 14. On January 17, a letter from the CEO was sent to the Fight 1549’s passengers.
15. On January 21, another letter went to passengers again offering the services of the customer care team and promising to make efforts to reimburse the costs of the original airfare.
16. Appeared in the television show and hold 1-year anniversary to let the company have a good image.
- After the family support hotline set up, the company learned that all passengers and employees in that airplane were safely evacuated. The company’s first news release was issued.
- The company entire team was praised “a model of crisis management”.
- Because the hard work of the team, the incident was know as “The Miracle in the Hudson”.
- US Airways got better image than before.
Obviously, communication team did a great job to handle this crisis. From this crisis we can learn a lot. First, the company had its own crisis communication plan before this crisis and they had “tabletop drill” to test the plan, so once there was a crisis happened, the company were prepared. Second, there is an enemy in the crisis —media. The company could not know what the news the media would give to the public, as we know, the news are not always true. So how to give true news fast is a lesson the US Airways company gave us. Third, the communication set war room and media center to let public know the situation about this accident and set family hotline to show their concerns. Also, the company appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes and hold 1-year anniversary to let public remember this crisis, this gave the company a good image to the public.