American Airlines – Failed Crisis Management

American Airlines is on everybody’s mind right now: Thousands of flights cancelled, more than 100,000 passenger stranded and millions of dollars lost.

How did AA react to this crisis?

Sure, they put up a link on the corporate site, summarizing the situation. Very White House press statement of them. The press statement from Gerard Arpey was uploaded on their YouTube page. They covered the bases. But did they join the conversation? 

Obviously not. 

Top-down statements might have been good enough a decade ago, today they just cause a shrug. CEO’s tend to apologize on a daily basis and links on sites to a press release are almost an insult to seething customers. Instead, American Airlines should have explained the situation in full: Why were the planes grounded? What is the benefit for the customer? How are they going to make sure this won’t happen again? Are they willing to accept that customers are so fed up with their product? How are they going to change it?

Encourage people to converse with American Airlines. Let them express their feelings. Passengers feel helpless when dealing with airlines. Give them a channel to communicate their feelings. 

And, most importantly, give the staff on the ground authority to treat people like they should be treated: If they have to spend the night, offer them luxury accomodations. If their flight is delayed, offer them a generous voucher for food and drinks. Give everyone affected a free flight within the US. People that had to stay overnight should receive a transcontinental flight. 

Currently, American Airlines is hiding and hoping another airlines will mess up and their mistakes will be forgotten. People don’t forget days of delays. They will talk about it. Write about it. Share it with others. American Airlines should consider the crisis as an opportunity. It’s not too late.




One response to “American Airlines – Failed Crisis Management

  1. Excellent article. The modern (Western) management concepts of vision, leadership, motivation, excellence in work, achieving goals, giving work meaning, decision making and planning, are all discussed in the Bhagavad-Gita . There is one major difference. While Western management thought too often deals with problems at material, external and peripheral levels, the Bhagavad-Gita tackles the issues from the grass roots level of human thinking. Once the basic thinking of man is improved, it will automatically enhance the quality of his actions and their results.
    The management philosophy emanating from the West is based on the lure of materialism and on a perennial thirst for profit, irrespective of the quality of the means adopted to achieve that goal. This phenomenon has its source in the abundant wealth of the West and so ‘management by materialism’ has caught the fancy of all the countries the world over, India being no exception to this trend. My country, India, has been in the forefront in importing these ideas mainly because of its centuries old indoctrination by colonial rulers, which has inculcated in us a feeling that anything Western is good and anything Indian, is inferior. Gita does not prohibit seeking money, power, comforts, health. It advocates active pursuit of one’s goals without getting attached to the process and the results.
    The result is that, while huge funds have been invested in building temples of modem management education, no perceptible changes are visible in the improvement of the general quality of life – although the standards of living of a few has gone up. The same old struggles in almost all sectors of the economy, criminalization of institutions, social violence, exploitation and other vices are seen deep in the body politic.
    The source of the problem
    The reasons for this sorry state of affairs are not far to seek. The Western idea of management centers on making the worker (and the manager) more efficient and more productive. Companies offer workers more to work more, produce more, sell more and to stick to the organization without looking for alternatives. The sole aim of extracting better and more work from the worker is to improve the bottom-line of the enterprise. The worker has become a hirable commodity, which can be used, replaced and discarded at will.
    Thus, workers have been reduced to the state of a mercantile product. In such a state, it should come as no surprise to us that workers start using strikes ( gheraos) sit-ins, (dharnas) go-slows, work-to-rule etc. to get maximum benefit for themselves from the organizations. Society-at-large is damaged. Thus we reach a situation in which management and workers become separate and contradictory entities with conflicting interests. There is no common goal or understanding. This, predictably, leads to suspicion, friction, disillusion and mistrust, with managers and workers at cross purposes. The absence of human values and erosion of human touch in the organizational structure has resulted in a crisis of confidence.
    Western management philosophy may have created prosperity – for some people some of the time at least – but it has failed in the aim of ensuring betterment of individual life and social welfare. It has remained by and large a soulless edifice and an oasis of plenty for a few in the midst of poor quality of life for many.
    Hence, there is an urgent need to re-examine prevailing management disciplines – their objectives, scope and content. Management should be redefined to underline the development of the worker as a person, as a human being, and not as a mere wage-earner. With this changed perspective, management can become an instrument in the process of social, and indeed national, development.
    Now let us re-examine some of the modern management concepts in the light of the Bhagavad-Gita which is a primer of management-by-values.

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