July 17, 2008

A 787-sized Problem

Posted in In the news, Uncategorized tagged , at 10:59 am by R

Last night Larry King covered breaking news about the U.S. Airline Pilots Association filing a complaint about the leadership of the company pressuring them to fly with lower fuel amounts. Eight pilots along with their union submitted this claim.

As someone who is getting on a plane tomorrow, I’m bothered by this prospect.

What bothered me more was hearing dear old Larry say, “US Airways CEO Doug Parker backed out of the interview two hours before this broadcast.”

As a woman in public relations, this bothers me too.

In Mr. Parker’s stead was a “spokesperson” (Mr. Durrant) who had this to say:

“Our arrival fuel amounts on average are more than twice the FAA minimum standards,” Durrant said. “With the high price of oil, it is a balance between having enough to travel safely and also flying efficiently.”

Durrant went on to say that US Airways is actively trying to reduce the weight of the planes because that weight directly effects fuel consumption and that the heaviest thing on a plane is the fuel that propels it. In his head, if you have less fuel (weight) on a flight, you burn less fuel.

Why didn’t the US Air representative talk about the ways they are lightening the load and how that impacts the amount of fuel needed to fly the plane? That would have had just an iota of assurance. How about talking about how their efforts could help to control ticket prices? Why didn’t they step up to the plate to add to the conversation instead of just deflect the negativity at hand?

In media relations this tactic is called “bridging.” Quickly address the issue, then bridge to the message you want to send and want to be asked about by a reporter.

Mr. Durrant, didn’t, in my opinion, satisfactorily quell the uneasiness this story this story created for fliers (myself included). Now, the flying public has the bejeezus scared out of them at the prospect of their plane dropping out of the air because the empty light went on.

Even if he hadn’t address the (somewhat) face-saving thoughts I addressed above, all of this information might have had a more reassuring air or at least had a little more weight (pun 100 percent intended here) coming from Doug Parker.

It just doesn’t have the right impact when the news is deliveredĀ  without the authority or rationale that is best appreciated coming from a C-level rep.

In all things airline, I feel like someone really needs to step up. In this case it really should have been Doug Parker.

In crisis communications (which, of late is the public relations function of the airline industry), you have to be as concerned about the brand as about stakeholder reaction. As a ticket holder, a stakeholder and a public relations practitioner, I don’t feel like US Airways has protected any of these interests with their tactics for the Larry King Show last night or in any of the articles and interviews on this topic that ran this morning.

US Airways: Say something of value to your passengers with regard to this situation and quick!



1 Comment »

  1. Lisa said,

    I am an Airline employee and I gaurantee you that none of our pilots would fly any plane that wasn’t safe. The reason this story “Broke” when it did (right before Dougs appearance) was to take the focus off the real issue Doug was going to discuss, which was supposed to be, WHY fuel costs are the way they are. I was very disapointed in CNN for trying to take the focus off something that really affects people to sensationalize something that is unfounded, mainly, to blindside Doug Parker. Then I have to ask why? Why doesn’t CNN want to discuss the facts about the price of fuel and the crooked oil company execs and oil speculators. Doug was going to shed some light on the issue, why doesn’t CNN want the American public to know who’s really putting the money in their pockets? I feel a whole show should be done on this issue alone. I guess it makes better press when they can report on high fuel prices and the negative impact it has on peoples lives, rather than trying to help the situation by shedding light on what can be done such as tighter controls on the speculators through our lawmakers and how the oil people all benefit while the majority of people are being hurt by this greed . It’s so obvious how biased CNN is when they are supposed to report the news not controll it. A lot of people have different names for CNN. I think it should be BNN- Biased News Network.

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