Corporate Blogging Survey 2005

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December 29, 2005

Alaska Airlines Flight Decompression PR Issue

Jeremy Hermanns and his fiancée survived a horrendous experience after the Alaska Airlines flight they were traveling on, decompressed. Jeremy blogged about the incident and included pictures from the flight. The Alaska Airlines incident was a terrifying incident for all of the passengers and air flight staff involved, I am glad everyone survived the event safely. Jeremy's post has received several hundred comments, including some critical comments about the entry. Jeremy discovered that a number of the critical comments come from people where their IP address comes from Alaska Airlines.

Jeremy Pepper analyses the PR issues arising from the commentary on Jeremy Hermanns’s blog from several supposed Alaska Airlines employees. If it is the case that Alaska Airlines employees made these comments then the company it will not do the company’s reputation any good.

It’s important for any company to have a clear communication crisis in place and also to have a consistent message. As an employee when you say something in public about your company you are representing the company’s position, but do you know what your company’s position really is, and how it should be presented?

This example of a blogger describing his experiences on an Alaska Airlines plane on his blog, and perhaps having the post commented on by Alaska Airlines employees demonstrates that companies might have communications policies in place, but that in the world of consumer generated media, its important to educate your employees on how to react to developing news. Jeremy Pepper was right in suggesting that companies set clear policies for their employees on how to act in public on crisis communications incidents.

Further, while it may avoid some damage, and frankly hurtful comments, merely setting a policy is not enough. A company has to seriously think about educating its workforce about their policy on communicating in today’s new world of consumer generated media. Seminars and videos will work better than books and dusty employee handbooks.

Posted by johncass at December 29, 2005 7:04 PM

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Sounds scary Jeremy. I too am a pilot, been flying for 28 years and now own a pressurized cabin class twin. Was wondering about the decompression experience... how fast did it happen, and how did your ears do? There is no mention in any of the stories that I found about broken or damaged ear drums. I often fly at FL250 with my family which includes two young children and worry about rapid decompression. The GA fleet is aging, and it will happen every now and then. Just how bad was the experience to you physically?

As an aside, I know your experience was scary as hell. I was once on a SW 737 flight from Seattle to LA that went partially inverted and was out of control for those brief seconds (was doing a low and slow steep 180 turn to final behind a 757 and stalled the inner wing when we flew through the vortices of the 757), and I was never quite the same after that flight. I stopped flying the airlines in mid-2001, and haven't gone back. My palms would sweat too much.

As far as your story, yeah, we all tend to overdramatize, but when your scared out of your wits, it's your right. I would have crapped my pants too, as no one on that flight knew that that wasn't the beginning of a chain reaction of bad events, just like another famous Alaska Air crash over SoCal. I am amazed how angry everyone is though. It's not just political elections that cause such a polarization, but any event where every one and anyone thinks they are an expert, which seems like the whole world population these days. Sorry about the human condition. Anyway, an informed answer to my question would be much appreciated.

Posted by: John Peruzzi at January 1, 2006 6:08 PM

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