DALLAS, TX: American Airlines has been working to quell media
speculation and panic following the crash of Flight 587 in New York last
American's first priority was to assist the families for the victims,
and to offer as much information as was permitted. The company retains
Burson-Marsteller and Weber Shandwick Worldwide.
CEO Don Carty made a brief statement to the press before boarding a
plane from Dallas to the crash site in Queens, NY. Later that day, he
gave a press conference from the hotel where the victims' families were
housed, and messages were posted on the website in both Spanish and
"When there is a crisis of this proportion, the CEO needs to be very
visible," explained Tim Doke, VP of corporate communications for
"He needs to be personally engaged, and be at the scene of the accident
as quickly as possible."
Meanwhile, the media was speculating that the crash could be related to
a terrorist attack. Results of the NTSB's report won't be known for
weeks, and American is only allowed to disclose basic information about
the airplane and flight crew.
"We are pretty much gagged by the NTSB," Doke said. "It's a matter that
we have debated with the NTSB for some time. They'd like us to say
Last year, the NTSB adopted new rules regarding communications by
airlines, prompted by American's handling of press conferences related
to the 1999 crash of an airplane in Little Rock, AR.
Doke said the team has sometimes had to go off the record to set
reporters straight. "One of the things that's a challenge is dealing
with a lot of really unsophisticated reporters who don't cover a lot of
business," he said. "We spend a lot of time keeping the media from going
off on tangents that will confuse the public - and embarrass