Fort WORTH, TX: American Airlines (AA) said it focused on direct engagement with passengers after cancelling 3,079 flights in four days due to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) request for more inspections.
The company enlisted its seven-person PR team, other staffers, and AOR Weber Shandwick, to inform the public of the reasons for the delays and options for getting to their destinations, according to Roger Frizzell, AA's VP of corporate communications and advertising. Airport personnel at some of its large hubs also passed out news releases to customers.
Tim Smith, AA's director of PR, added that it sent out millions of e-mails to its AAdvantage members and launched a corporate blog. For reporters, it sent out twice-daily releases, held three news conferences, a b-roll of an inspection, and set up an after-hours hotline. It used bulletin boards and intranet devices to distribute updates and talking points to employees.
Despite AA's efforts, the massive cancellations seemed to add to growing criticism of the entire airline industry, which included hearings on Capitol Hill where members of Congress questioned the closeness of FAA's relationship with airlines.
A new Web site, "Tell Your AA Story," cropped up, inviting passengers and employees to share complaints on AA.
Smith said the site's part of a negative campaign by its pilots' union.