Airline Redemption in Blizzard Conditions
Scenario: A major U.S. air carrier had, a few weeks prior, experienced a high-profile grounding of its flights due to a massive snowstorm that resulted in stranded passengers on a grounded plane for several hours. Effective and strategic communication was critical. The situation onboard had become increasingly tense and uncomfortable, cell phones alerted the media and a series of high-profile negative news stories ensued. A new president of operations, brought in soon after from the airline's out-of-town corporate headquarters, vowed, "This will never happen again." A few weeks later, another blizzard occurred. The media watched closely.
Strategic Communications Solution: As the wind howled and heavy snow fell on a busy Friday evening, our team was at the airport, where we remained for 17 straight hours, sitting in on operational meetings, as well as acting as media spokespersons, including on-camera and behind the microphone. As operations successfully dealt with issues via lessons learned, we proactively communicated updates to local and national media, in turn informing the public, with regard to operational foresight, cancelled flights, rebooking options and the extraordinary efforts of airline customer service personnel. Restoring consumer confidence was key. Messaging was vital to address media scrutiny and reverse public perception of the airline. In this case, actions had been taken swiftly and decisively, including bringing additional customer service personnel from out of town to accommodate passengers through the overnight hours and into the next day. This time, all was under control.
Results: "This Time, Snow Big Deal," said news reports and headlines the next morning as snowfall diminished and airport operations began returning to normal. Our team continued its proactive outreach to media through the day and into the afternoon, appearing on-camera with rolled up sleeves and five-o-clock shadows. To be sure, "we" had worked around the clock for our customers–efforts that were appreciated.