Boeing faces tough comms challenge

SEATTLE, WA: Boeing's commercial airplane unit's PR team is working

with airline partners to restore confidence in flying, simultaneously

handling hundreds of calls concerning layoffs of up to 30,000

employees.



The company announced the layoffs last week, blaming them on anticipated

declines in the travel market.



Boeing's corporate headquarters, which includes the corporate PR team,

finalized its Chicago move last month. Each of Boeing's three major

business units was given greater autonomy, and PR teams expected to take

greater responsibility.



The company has also been keen to show the Seattle and Puget Sound areas

that even though the headquarters is now in Chicago, it is still an

active part of the Pacific Northwest community.



But the region will likely be severely hurt by the layoffs, which will

take place by the end of 2002. Out of 93,700 employees in the division,

about 60,000 of those are based in the Puget Sound and Seattle

regions.



The past weeks have been a severe test for the PR team in the commercial

airplanes unit. All four hijacked airplanes were built by Boeing, and

the unit has had to make decisions based on a business environment that

is irretrievably altered.



"There has never been anything like it. September 11 changed aviation

forever," said Tom Ryan, manager of media relations for the commercial

airplanes division. "It is important that we gain confidence, because we

are all in this together."



The unit handles all PR in-house, and has about 80 staff members

throughout its product lines in such places as Tulsa, OK, Southern

California, and Canada.



At this point, it is not known if the job cuts will include

communications staff. "We don't know at this point, just like everyone

else," Ryan said.



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