The skies are friendly; the passengers are not

MD-80 Maintenance left you StrAAnded?

Thu, 2008/03/27 - 10:54 by aargh

This, dear readers, is the definition of Travel Hell:

Unless you've been living in a cave, or recovering from jet lag, it's hardly news: yesterday, American Airlines grounded some of their MD-80s for last-minute wiring inspections and cancelled flights accordingly. By "some," I mean between 200 and 300 planes, depending on the source and publication time of the report.

If you've been flying with American Airlines long enough, you don't need anyone to tell you that they have a lot of those planes. You've earned plenty of miles in that familiar 2-3 seat plan. You no longer need SeatGuru to point out outlets in coach or exit-row seats. Your initial reaction to the news? Bloody hell, there goes the fleet! -and perhaps some unprintables if you were staring at the lounge's Departures board at the time...

Is this reason to worry about AA's airplane safety now? No more than normal, I'd say. (This event raises questions about the how the airline tracks its maintenance, but that's another story...)

What's disconcerting, however, is where we're getting information about the event. Newspapers, news websites, everywhere but the source: AA's website.

Let me check: On the landing page I see fares sales, a double-miles vacation promotion, an ad for the AA credit card... Anything relevant in the "AA News and Offers" block? Nope.

I'll try the "All News" link. Nothing. Nada. Rien. Nichevo.

Aha, I'll click "About Us" and then "Press Releases" on the left-hand navigation section. Voila.

March 26: American Airlines Statement On MD-80 Aircraft Maintenance


Wow. The "About American Airlines" section has more text than the press release itself. Where's the rest of the story?

If anyone from American is reading: You realize that those planes were going somewhere, with passengers, before they were pulled from service? Those people stranded at airports, they're your customers. Tell us how you're caring for them. In the very least, you'll show the world that you know how to pick up the pieces and keep moving. If you handle it well, you may even look like a hero.

I think Business Week recently published an article on how to wrangle a PR nightmare. Let me know if you'd like a copy. One of the tips was to speak up. Promptly. If you're silent too long, you'll leave people to develop their own conclusions. You don't have to wait for the journalists to come knocking, either. That fancy website? It's your strongest PR vehicle. -and right now I'd expect people to be on the hunt for news updates rather than fare sales.

In the meantime, would any strAAnded passengers care to tell us their story? Please feel free to sign up and speak your mind in the forum.

-and to The Fat Plat: don't get cheeky on me, mate: Delta's had to ground some planes as well. I'll leave it up to you to research how well they have publicized this matter.

Some reading material for you curious folks:

"Delta, American To Cancel 400-Plus Flights"

"American Airlines not out of the woods yet",...

"About 300 American Airlines Flights Canceled"

"U.S. airline fleets showing their age",1,630107.story