Sunday, April 12, 2015

PR Experts Praise Lufthansa Response to Crash

In the wake of the devastating revelations surrounding the Germanwings crash in the French Alps, airlines have now pledged to change their rules to ensure at least two crew members are present in the cockpit at all times.

Days after the crash, which killed 150 people this week, it emerged that the 27-year old pilot Andreas Lubitz purposefully flew the plane into the mountains, and reportedly suffered from depression.

Previous recent airlines disasters such as that which Malaysian Airlines suffered, have shone the light on how critical and quick an airline's response must be. It has already moved fast to remove any marketing messages that may be deemed inpappropriate in light ot the tragedy, and yesterday saw Transport for London pull all advertising for the airline across the London Underground.

Jane Wilson, managing director, MHP Corporate Affairs has this to say about the way Lufthansa handled the crisis:

This news was delivered quickly and straightforwardly by Marseilles prosecutor Brice Robin to grief stricken relatives and to the world’s equally shocked media. Lufthansa, which had acted swiftly and with compassion to get relatives of the deceased passengers to the crash site issued a statement describing their ‘shock and horror’ and echoed this in the press conference chaired by Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr. It was at this conference that Sphor was asked the questions that have dominated coverage since. Questions about safety protocols around leaving a pilot in the cockpit unattended and the question of Lubitz’s mental health history – specifically an interruption to his initial pilot training.

This was not a terrorist attack, not an ideologically driven act of mass murder which one group has claimed responsibility for. But human nature looks for responsibility in the face of tragedy. And so, the news narrative has taken a predictable turn as journalists look for ‘clues’ to Lubitz’s state of mind (old friends, colleagues and contacts interviewed) and whether his employer German Wings and its parent Lufthansa are responsible for not having spotted this potential eventuality. But mental illness is complex, and personal and not as easy a news agenda to cling to as corporate negligence. It’s not as easy to respond to either.

Other airlines and US air regulators have been quick to issue statements and airlines across the world are publicising changes to their rules regarding two crew members being required at all times in the cockpit.  In the UK, the CAA told national operators to review their procedures. Lufthansa are not addressing the cockpit issue directly at this time and sticking to their statement that this was an unforeseen, tragic event saying “We are trying to deal with an enigma. No systems could prevent such an event” They have made no comment on changes to their cockpit safety protocols and they continue to reassert their position that Lubitz underwent the same stringent testing that all their pilots do.
For now, there is no reason to suspect otherwise but one senses that the international media are resolutely pursuing all avenues to test this position. It’s likely that details of the nature of Lubitz’s absence from training will become public as these things often do either formally or informally and Lufthansa will no doubt be prepared in their response. Their reputation will ultimately hang on whether they follow other airlines to review cockpit security protocols and more importantly whether they can provide evidence that this was in fact a truly unforeseen, tragic event that no procedures, protocols or testing could have avoided.

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