All-America Airways started in 1939 which was a company of delivering air-mail to Western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley, and finally US Airways buy outs and mergers. At present, more than 3,300 flights per day were operated by US Airways, along with US Airways Shuttle and US Airways Express. With the support of loyal customers and hard working employees, US Airways has grown to become the fifth largest airline. One of James Olson’s first tasks after he joined US Airways as Vice President, Corporate Communication, was to reorganize the company’s crisis communications plan because the plan had been developed years, too many pages, and out of date.
On January 15, 2009, the US Airways Flight 1549 was done during the trip, and then the captain took an emergency action that floating in the Hudson River. This emergency landing brought many problems for US Airways, such as, death, injured passengers, first aid, food, compensation, public relations and the like. Those problems need US Airways to take responsibility and solve it in time.
By analyzing this event, we can figure out the US Airways company’s strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat when the crisis happened. I think the strength of US Airways is its Corporate Communications Department already reorganized a more user-friendly and fewer than 15 pages crisis communications plan in October, 2008. Moreover, a “tabletop drill” was planned timely in mid December, 2008 which was a simulated catastrophic accident by the corporate communications team. Those strengths make US Airways to take rescue action faster and effective.
For the weakness part, I think the most important problem for US Airways is it is a transportation crisis about human lives; therefore, the company should be more careful and precise in every action or news release. After the crisis happened, the opportunity for the company is appropriately take advantage of press release to make a promise as well as issue preliminary rescue actions to public in order to calm down the angry customers and families. The changing of site and information are rapidly so that the news media often get wrong facts when they questing to be first rather than factual. Since wrong facts may be misleading the public, those wrong facts are threats for US Airways in the crucial period of dealing with crisis.
- The crisis war room was set up without a word and the phones were installed within minutes.
- An emergency response “bridge line” was established by US Airways in order to get the right facts.
- The care team was dispatched to New York aims at providing cell phones, free hotel rooms, warm meals and dry clothing for passengers as well as on-site support to family members.
- The toll-free Family Support Hotline was set up for family members to get more information about their families.
- The Go-Team carried special credit cards and cash to buy essentials for passengers who need.
- A letter from the CEO was sent to all passengers purposes to inform them how they might get their personal belongings from the plane.
- Another letter was sent to passengers again aims to offer the services of the Customer Care Team and promise to make efforts to recover personal items from the plan.
Dean Foust praised the US Airways’ care of passengers and the crisis management was successful in an article in business week. Besides that, there was some passengers’ belongings were successfully recovering. Even though Parker does not like the term of “The Miracle on the Hudson”, it still shows that the reorganized crisis communication plan does work and US Airways did a great job in dealing with this crisis.
The US Airways did not lose customers and the respect of employees because of their effective performance, and they got applauds form the public for their efforts on crisis. For the US Airways company, I think a more user-friendly plan and a “tabletop drill” are two main useful implements when the crisis happened. The decision was to be more accurate than fast by the Corporation Communications team is right because there was no guess and estimate when lives are in question.
The entire Flight 1549 crew appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes and they were interviewed by Katie Couric, therefore, we can discern that communicating with internal publics are crucial in crisis because they are the most believable spokespersons especially the employees who were directly involved in crisis. Once a crisis has occurred, employees must be advised of what has happened as soon as possible. In the US Airways’ communication plan, a warn that they would probably be notified by the news media if there were an actual crisis happened despite the company’s sophisticated notification system, and then they need to take action immediately. I think the US Airways offered an impressive lesson about the importance of a crisis communications plan in an organization.