Digital Sales Development: Reputation Lessons: American Airlines

Friday, August 1, 2014

Reputation Lessons: American Airlines

Glitches happen. Anything made by human hands (i.e. computers) is prone to problems. If a solution can't be made available for the time being, the next best thing will be to mitigate the effects. For example, if you're hungry but it's not yet time for lunch, water can fill your stomach for the time being.

This was a hard lesson American Airlines learned in April, 2013 after a glitch in their reservation system dropped hundreds of flights from its database. It was a nationwide crisis that crippled the airliner, which was already suffering from a negative reputation, particularly from problems in its MD-80 aircraft fleet several years ago.

American's reputation got worse with how the airliner handled the glitch. As it turned out, many news outlets reported that the company formally announced the crash to the public via social media an hour before grounding the entire fleet. Flights already in the air continued their travel unhindered, but those still in the ground were barred from taking off, leaving passengers irate.

American failed to inform its crew of the outage, given that their employees in airports all over the U.S. hardly knew what was going on. It's a lesson on how concrete communication can mitigate, if not prevent, a PR disaster-inducing crisis. Currently, American is hard at work with rebuilding its reputation now that it has merged with US Airways. 

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