DALLAS: Deluged by rumors, airport PR teams have criticized
journalists who are exaggerating minor incidents to make them appear to
be major crises.
In one incident, two Dallas broadcast outlets reported two different
items about Dallas Fort Worth airport. One network said there had been a
fuel spill there, while another reported that there was a major fire at
the facility. Neither report was true, and only one of the networks
corrected the story on-air.
When minor occurrences do take place, they are sometimes misinterpreted
or taken out of context. "They try with each instance to relate it to
the terrorist attacks," said Tina Sharp, DFW's public affairs
"Whenever there's an event that might have been minor in the past, it's
In another incident at DFW, reporters listening to scanners heard what
is called an "alert one" - when the pilot calls the tower to report an
issue, such as an indicator-light activation.
"We had media calls asking if this was a possible overtaking of the
aircraft," Sharp said.
The issue is particularly problematic with the broadcast media, which is
interested in airing relevant travel information as quickly as
As a result, the PR teams are trying to respond as quickly.
"We have to respond even faster to make sure they get the right news,
but they want to get it live," Sharp said.
Airlines have also seen the rumor mill in action. British Airways had a
call from an Oceanside, CA newspaper over rumors that one of its
aircraft had a problem.
"We get a lot of what we call ambulance chasers out there," said John
Lampl, BA's VP of communications for North America. "You have to control
it. We are hoping people will call and find out, and not just report
that BA had a problem."