For those of you who are or aspire to be better crisis communicators, there’s a situation unfolding at American Airlines that will bear following. According to news reports that are effectively everywhere, a woman on an American Airlines flight last Friday died after being denied oxygen – twice – and discovering that two oxygen tanks on board – plus the defibrillator – were malfunctioning.
Here are some initial discussion points:
Is the story accurate? As you’ll see, much of the coverage is actually pick up of a single AP story and while there’s no immediate reason to discount the accuracy of the story, it’s worth noting that the reporting depends on information provided by the deceased’s brother and cousin.
Was AP justified in writing up the story the way it did, based on the accounts of two people who are anything but objective observers?
How should American be responding even while it’s investigating this situation? American’s position in these stories is almost non-existent (a longer statement is referred to in a package done by WABC).
Should the airline be more visible in the story and – if so – how?
What’s coming next? I think it’s safe to assume that newsrooms all over the country (the world) are trying to figure out how to advance this story – interviews with the family, tracking down other passengers on the plane, investigating American’s inspect procedures, etc. You can expect lawsuits to be filed shortly as well.
How does American get back in front of this issue (assuming you think they should and it’s possible)?
What should other airlines be doing, if anything, on this story. How about responding to media inquiries wanting to know their rules regarding medical emergencies on board?
Who should be speaking for the airline? Should there be a statement only (that seems to be American’s current approach) or should spokespeople be available? On camera?
Those are just the starting points. As Keanu Reeves said in Speed:
– Austin government loans kind