Monday, January 19, 2009

Flight 1549: PR Scramble from Airline, Unions

US Airways management, as well as unions for pilots and flight attendants, are scrambling to re-position themselves on the US Airways crash-landing in the Hudson last week -- amid richly deserved criticism that the co-pilot and the three flight attendants did not get proper credit for their roles in the amazing evacuation and rescue from the half-submerged airplane.

As I said yesterday when the US Airways pilots union issued a statement complaining that the media was at fault for focusing almost exclusively on the heroism of the captain, the unions are a little late out of the gate complaining about this.

In a breaking news story, reporters (and in this case the Times led the way, leaving the two feckless New York tabloids in the dust) are hauling butt to get the facts and get to the people who were there. Reporters found dozens of passengers to interview, and it so happened that a photo and detailed information about Captain Sullenberger were readily available.

And there is no question that Sullenberger's skill in landing that crippled airplane on a river and helping to get everyone out safely was the main story.

I immediately took note of the obvious brilliant performance of the other crew members when I first posted about the crash immediately after it happened. But information on the co-pilot and the flight attendants was simply not available.

US Airways, which had rushed to get into the act and lionize the captain, issued a statement today that is an obvious reaction to the criticism that the rest of the crew was overlooked, if not ignored, in the aftermath of the crash and rescue. It said:

"US Airways is extremely proud of the professional Crew of Flight 1549. All five of these outstanding aviation professionals performed in an exceptional way under extraordinary circumstances. The company also appreciates the generous outpouring of support these five employees are receiving, and we recognize the media’s good intentions to speak with them as soon as possible. As the US Airline Pilots Association (USAPA) and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) have also said in a statement, the crew has communicated their willingness to share their experiences at the right time. At this stage of the process and investigation, however, they are respectfully declining all media interview requests.

"US Airways will continue to work with the crew of Flight 1549 and their union leaders to determine when media interviews are appropriate."

OK, airline, unions and flack-shops hired to do damage control: Stop whining about the fact that the stories are not adequately being told, if the subjects of said stories are not available. But trust me, this story, like most, has a sell-by date, and a new president is being inaugurated tomorrow. Very fast, this story passes into the realm of book-deal.

Meanwhile, here is the statement, purportedly issued late last week but seen here only today, from the flight attendants union. Like the pilots union, the flight attendants union seems to believe that dry proclamations, approved by bureaucratic committee and reflecting nothing from the actual participants nor any detail that reporters have not already dug out themselves, are sufficient to drive a story forward:

"US Airways flight attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) were instrumental in the evacuation of 150 passengers earlier this week as Flight 1549 made an emergency water landing in New York's Hudson River. Mike Flores, AFA-CWA US Airways President issued the following statement praising the professionalism of the three Charlotte, NC crew members:

"'What began as a normal flight suddenly turned into something far from normal. US Airways Flight 1549 departed New York's LaGuardia airport shortly after 3 pm. Within minutes of becoming airborne the crew faced a seemingly impossible situation.

"'While the investigation of Flight 1549 will take months to complete we do know this much - the skill and professionalism of the entire crew made all the difference.

"'Never in the history of aviation has a commercial jet made a perfectly successful emergency water ditching. That history is forever changed now because of the actions of the crew of flight 1549.

"'Once the aircraft came to rest in the water, the years of experience and training of the flight attendants took over. All 150 passengers were safely evacuated and the crew was the last to exit the aircraft. That did not happen because of luck. The only way this happened was because flight attendants are first and foremost safety professionals, trained for an event such as occurred yesterday afternoon.

"'The media is calling the event the, 'Miracle on the Hudson'. Obviously the end result was remarkable. Others may judge the result as a miracle but AFA-CWA believes what happened yesterday should be renamed to 'Professionalism on the Hudson'. Clearly, the entire crew were heroes.'"

[My note, the "media" did not coin that asinine "Miracle on the Hudson" term, which came from New York Gov. David ("Hey, It's a Miracle I Got This Job") Paterson.]

Nevertheless, I agree with the flight attendants union. Or I should say, they agree with me.


1 comment:

John C said...

It appears that Obama's people got the message about how it takes a crew, and not just a single hero. They've invited the entire crew to the Inauguration and also offered them seats on Air Force One. The press cannot help but report it as inviting the hero, Capt. "Sully." Oh, and the rest of the crew is also invited. Alas.