TWA Case Study


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The study an analysis of a problem in an airport, including crisis communication.

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TWA Case Study

  1. 1. Crisis Response 1 Running head: CRISIS RESPONSE Rewriting the Crisis Response Heather Mueller Ithaca College
  2. 2. Crisis Response 2 The Crisis Response Case Study to Create an Effective Crisis Plan The key issue presented in the Crisis Response Case Study is that Trans World Airlines (TWA) lacks a clear vision for handling a crisis and does not have an effective crisis response plan set in place for emergencies (Ray, 2000, p. 183). This absence of a prompt crisis response along with the absence of upper management caused the public to respond negatively towards the airline, which could hurt the overall success of the brand relationship between the airline and the public (Duncan, 2008, p. 141). Analysis What the TWA management lacks in an inadequate crisis response strategy to handle vital emergencies and how to efficiently communicate information to the public. Since there was an inefficient channel of communication, the public felt as if they were being treated poorly and began to view TWA in a negative manner, which hurts the brand relationship (Duncan, 2008, p. 141). Rudolf Giuliani, the Mayor of New York, also criticized the TWA management for relaying false information about the progress made on informing the public about the recent crash of a Boeing 747, departed from New York’s JFK International Airport (Ray, 2000, p. 183). “Many companies go astray by lying,” (Rudolph, 1986, p. 53) and it only worsens the panic in a crisis. TWA did have a trauma response team, however Johanna O’Flaherty, the human resources executive in charge of the team, was on a vacation. The crisis response plan “failed to effectively factor geographic circumstances into its plan” (Ray, 1999, p. 152) and had no backup leader. The trauma response team was still activated, along with programs to inform the public, however it was done too slowly and plans were not clear. Jeffery Erickson, the president and CEO of TWA, was absent from the whole crisis response, and the absence of upper management suggests that the companys’ leaders lack concern and are insensitive to the situation (Ray, 1999,
  3. 3. Crisis Response 3 p. 153). If TWA does not create a new prompt crisis response plan, and does not align its upper management to work in-depth with the crisis response plan, their image will be damaged, and their airline company may never be trusted or successful again. Solutions In a crisis, “time is critical factor [and] a management team must be ready to quickly mobilize and take action” (Ray, 1999, p. 152). TWA management needs to take control of the situation to reassure the public and stakeholders that everything is going to be taken care of. TWA could set up a new crisis plan with more specific details and descriptions. A crisis management plan is “a comprehensive plan, developed during a rational and calm period, that deals with how to manage the various aspects of a crisis” (Ray, 1999, p. 44). With this pre- planning for an unexpected situation, routine decisions can already be set in place, specific roles for members of the company are pre-decided, a variety of stakeholders and agencies can already be unified, and upper management can exclusively focus on communicating clearly and quickly with the public. “Attention to detail is a crucial component” (Rudolph, 1986, p. 53) of a crisis management plan, to assure everything is as clear as possible. With a new plan, TWA can “maximize its’ performance during a critical period,” (Ray, 1999, p. 44) and maintain daily activities while still managing the crisis, so TWA can be viewed as responsible and efficient. Delta Airlines has “three of the best safety records in aviation; the airline, the airplane, and the airport,” (Ray, 1999, p. 117) and these rankings were questioned when Flight 191 crashed in 1985. However, “there was virtually no impact on its operations or profitability” (Ray, 1999, p. 117) since the management at Delta Airlines was so prompt with their crisis response plan. The management of Delta Airlines communicated openly, involved upper management,
  4. 4. Crisis Response 4 assisted families promptly and thoroughly by assigning an airline representative to each family, and worked openly with other agencies to clear up the true cause of the crash. Government agencies and the public were pleased with how immediate and appropriate the response was, and the airlines popularity did not decline (Ray, 1999, p. 117). TWA could also adapt a Leadership Framework Model to align the upper management and assure they are present in the process (Alagse, n.d.). With this model, it would arrange a step-by- step process of what to do in a crisis, which would require complete commitment from upper management and provide them with enough support to implement an efficient crisis plan. This model would help TWA draft a new crisis plan, and set up a new crisis management team with specific roles and responsibilities (Alagse, n.d.). The team would have multiple back-up plans since no crisis is the same and all situations are unexpected (Ray, 1999, p. 44). This team would then connect with stakeholders, create critical partnerships for timely help, and would ensure preparedness with mock drills and training programs (Alagse, n.d.). These drills and programs would ensure TWA, the public, and stakeholders that the airline can responsibly react to a crisis. With the Leadership Framework Model, Jeffery could create a clear crisis plan for his company. Conclusion To course of action TWA management should follow is to create a new crisis management plan including more details and descriptions using the Leadership Framework Model. With this new plan, the administration would be able to respond to their next crisis in a timely manner with assurance that they could carry out all steps of the process, and would be able to clearly communicate with the public and stakeholders from all levels of the company. The plan will also assure that TWA does not hurt the brand relationship with the public.
  5. 5. Crisis Response 5 References Alagse. (n.d.). Crisis management - a leadership challenge. Leadership and crisis management. Retrieved October 11, 2008, from Alagse Web site: l1.php Duncan, T. (2008). Brands and stakeholder relationships. In S. Hamula, K. Kalman, M. Kish, K. Komaromi, & W. Ressler (Eds.). Introduction to strategic communication [custom text] (pp. 122-156). Hightstown, NJ: McGraw Hill Primis Online. Ray, S. J. (1999). Strategic communication in crisis management : Lessons from the airline industry. Westport, CT: Quorum Books. Ray, S. J. (2000). Crisis response Trans World Airlines and the crash of TWA flight 800. In G. Peterson (Ed.). Communicating in organizations: A casebook (2nd ed.). (pp. 183-193). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Rudolph, B. (1986, February 24). Coping with catastrophe. Time Magazine, 53. Retrieved October 8, 2008, from,9171,960708,00.html