Metrojet’s Crisis Communication

Photo from Flickr Commons

Photo from Creative Commons Flickr

While I was planning on addressing the topic of career searching abroad this week, some current events have caught my attention. The recent crash of Airbus A321 flight was tragic, resulting in the death of all 224 passengers. And with airline tragedies, comes the need of an affective crisis communication plan. With loved ones searching for answers, Metrojet is responsible for giving answers to the public’s questions, apologizing for the incident and getting to the bottom of what really happened.

With many possible ways to handle the situation correctly, Metrojet failed to perform well under crisis communication pressure. Metrojet’s first time addressing the situation was by Alexander Smirnov, deputy general director of the airline. Smirnov responded to the crisis with a comment to the public stating, “The only coherent reason could be a mechanical impact on the aircraft. There is no configuration of system shutdowns that could lead to the destruction of the aircraft in mid-air.”  Rather than addressing that the cause of the crash is still under investigation until they know for sure what caused the crash, Smirnov made an announcement that was quick and not well thought-out. There are many other possibilities that could have resulted in the tragedy of the accident and, in my opinion, it was unprofessional for Metrojet to give such a pre-developed response to the incident.

In March 2014, when Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared over the ocean, Malaysia Airlines worked hard to ensure that loved ones of the casualties on the plane were taken care of first and foremost. The crisis communication team at Malaysia Airlines issued a series of steps to address the incident. Many steps that would have benefited Metrojet if it was to do the same. Amidst the Flight 370 crisis, Malaysia Airlines opened page on their website, in which visitors to the site could ask any questions they had regarding the incident or read up on newest information released. Second, Malaysia airlines didn’t give the public answers that jumped to conclusions or ensured any promises. They responded with compassion and sincerity, while also making sure that all of the information was accurate and honest. In addition, Malaysia Airlines kept active on their social media accounts, repeatedly reminding their followers that they were doing whatever it takes to take care of the families involved.

Metrojet could have learned a few things from the crisis communication team at Malaysia Airlines. Airline malfunctions are inevitable and will continue to happen as long as planes are still flying, whether is it human error or tech error. It the airline’s responsibility to be prepared for such incidents and have a crisis communication plan ready for such circumstances. I’m interested to see how Metrojet continues to handle the situation as the weeks progress. How do you think they could have handled their first response better?

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