US Airways Case Study
US Airways encountered a crisis on January 15th, 2009. Luckily US Airways had just brought in a new corporate Communications Vice President the year before. James Olson’s first task as the Vice President of Corporate Communications was to revamp the crisis communications plan. The previous plan was hundreds of pages long and severely outdated. Olson took the plan down to less than 15 pages so it would be easy to read and beneficial in a time of crisis. This crisis plan was also tested in mid-December to ensure it would work properly.
The crisis faced by US Airways was one that could have happened to any airline. Flight number 1549 went down shortly after take off in the Hudson River. The plan was carrying hundreds of passenger and crew. CNN had found out about the planes crash landing in the river shortly after it had happened and was the source that informed US Airways officials. US Airway officials had to act quickly in order to insure no miscommunication occurred and that only the facts were given, no rumors. In order to do this US Airways would need to gather information as quickly and accurately as possible. This however was an issue because it had to track down all of the passenger, which had been carried to both sides of the Hudson and dispersed to different airports, hotels, and family and friends home’s.
This crisis was an opportunity for US Airways to handle a situation with swiftness and compassion because there was a great possibility that lives could have been lost. US Airways did an amazing job of getting the facts out promptly and to the appropriate publics. The US Airways crew as well as the first responders involved in this incident all reacted quickly and very efficiently in saving lives and relaying the correct information in a timely fashion. I could not see a better possible way to handle a crisis of this magnitude than how US Airways handled it. The implementation of a new crisis management plan shortly before this incident was also instrumental in the crisis being handled correctly. The fact that all of the people involved in the crisis management team for US Airways immediately flew to LaGuardia airport in New York and dropped everything they were doing to help with the crisis spoke highly for the company. Officials who were in the middle of meetings or even on their way to vacations immediately stopped what they were doing to be there for the people on the US Airways flight and to assist with whatever they could. There was also an extreme promptness that was taken when handling this crisis. A website was launched with updated information about the crash within 30 minutes, the first press released was issued within the first 45 minutes as well as the CEO giving his first media briefing in the first 90 minutes. All of these sources were also updated as new information became available. There was also a great follow up with the people on the flight throughout the several months following the crash. Several letters were sent to the people on the flight as well as their family members offering assistance with anything they might need help with as well as money to reimburse them for their flight and also $5,000 to help with up front expenses anyone on the flight may have faced. Passengers on flight 1549 were also given elevated flight status through March 2010, which allowed them special perks with US Airways. All of this I believe was going above and beyond crisis management and truly showing customer that they are valuable to US Airways.
Through out this crisis US Airways handled themselves like true American citizens, concerned with the lives of the people whom had been involved in the crisis and concerned with getting the correct information out in a timely manner. I think this crisis really lead US Airways to the front of people’s minds when it comes to air travel. The actions of the crew and other staff at US Airways were phenomenal and gave them a very good name as they dealt with a crisis.
Overall I was totally impressed with the way US Airways handled this crisis. They were prepared and up to date on their crisis management procedures and had practiced them, which allowed them to respond quickly and efficiently when disaster struck. I do not think this could have possibly been handled any better or that US Airways should have changed anything they did. The follow up after the crisis was also something I had never seen before but was spectacular. Issuing money back to passengers for their airline tickets as well as a considerable amount for the hardships they faced shortly after the crisis was wonderful. It was also great to see all of the recognition that went to the crew on the plane that day; they reacted greatly to a crisis that could have been devastating. I am extremely impressed and would hope that any business that I work for would react in the same manner.