FT WORTH, TX: American Airlines prioritized direct engagement with grounded passengers in the wake of canceling of 3,079 flights over the past four days.
The company enlisted its seven-person communications team, as well as other staffers, to inform the public of the reasons behind the delays and options for getting to their destinations, Roger Frizzell, American Airline's VP of corporate communications and advertising, told PRWeek. He added that American passed out press releases to consumers waiting in the airport to keep them informed.
During the last four days, 300 of American's MD-80 fleet were grounded due to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandate for further work and inspection related to the bundling of wires in the aircrafts' wheel wells. The Fort Worth-based airline expected to return to normal operations by Saturday evening, April 12.
Calling it “probably the single largest cancelation” in the airline industry, Frizzell said his internal communications team and AOR Weber Shandwick have put all their focus on the issue, delivering communication messages to consumers, the government, and investors, in addition to giving talking points and news to employees.
AA held multiple press conferences for reporters, one of which included a b-roll of an inspection of an American Airline plane, as well as photos demonstrating the wiring in question.
Frizzell likened the scope of the department's response to the cancelations it experienced directly after 9/11.
“While 9/11 was just a tremendous crisis… this had its own unique issues, and, in some cases, was even more intense, especially when you consider that never at any time [in this case] was safety an issue,” Frizzell said.
The incident comes a month after FFA concerns over inspections grounded a handful of Southwest planes.
American believes the planes were safe to fly and that it had already complied with a previous FAA order that gave it 18 months to address the wiring concerns.
Frizzell acknowledged, however, that the person waiting in the airport doesn't care why the planes were grounded, just that his or her life was disrupted, so the company needed to address that in its communications.
“To be very honest, if you're at the airport that's probably a very difficult situation,” he said. “That's probably the one audience we had trouble reaching.”