Poor communications and a questionable explanation leaves the airline’s most valuable asset in danger
Allegiant Airlines’ emergency landing at a then-closed Fargo, ND airport raised serious questions about safety. And, when your organization revolves around carrying passengers some 30,000+ in the air, that means immediate damage to your reputation.
Given the conflicting information between Allegiant’s statement and the control tower recordings, the fact that the plane was piloted by two Allegiant execs, and a history of safety concerns, this is issue is far from simple. Interviewed for The Wall Street Journal’s “Crisis of the Week” feature on the situation, BCM president Jonathan Bernstein shared his take with Ben DiPietro:
“When an airline has had a reported 65 maintenance-related incidents in [the September to March period], it has to do more than issue a generic statement–even if it was a pretty good generic statement.
“Airline incidents involving delays, luggage mishaps or poor customer service merely create annoyance. Safety-related incidents such as running low on fuel coming into Fargo, or others as alleged by the pilots’ union, create fear.
“Prospective customer fear is not adequately addressed by statements such as ‘The safety of passengers and employees is Allegiant’s number one priority.’ It’s too corporate-speak. And Mr. Harfst’s comment to The Wall Street Journal, ‘If we can’t run a safe airline, we shouldn’t be in the business,’ actually tied the idea that Allegiant shouldn’t be in business to a story questioning Allegiant’s actual commitment to safety.
“What Harfst and Allegiant should have done is put a lot more emphasis on very targeted reassuring messages to passengers and the travel industry, backing that up with detailed facts about its safety practices.”
The message Allegiant’s putting out is not lining up with what stakeholders are feeling, or with what they’re hearing from other sources. This leaves plenty of room for rumor and innuendo to creep in, not to mention fears being cemented.
Reputation is your most valuable asset, and even a small slip can translate into serious monetary loss. Speak clearly and live up to your word, or people will take their business elsewhere.
Erik & Jonathan Bernstein