American Airlines talks itself into a credibility crisis
The travails of American Airlines in reoganising itself under the protection of generous US bankruptcy laws hasn’t really caught public attention here, but an attempt to misrepresent history by its CEO Tom Horton demonstrates how airline managements can destroy their credibility with a PR driven disregard for the truth.
It remains to be seen whether Australia’s general media would be as vigilant or unforgiving of one of our carriers compared to this story in The Star-Telegram in Dallas, American Airlines’ home town.
As a general personal observation, media managers seem to feed off a desire by corporations to own their reality, and amend or emphasise it according to what they think will serve that entity’s purpose, and to hell with history.
This was abundantly evident in the willful dishonesty and callous disregard for the public interest by TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, in relation to the Fukishima disaster, which our children’s children will have to live with.
Similar distortions are commonplace in big pharma, and of course, politics. People lie, artfully or otherwise, to say anything to gain or retain power, and from all parts of the political spectrum.
But in Australia, we in the media do seem to be much harder on politicians than commercial advertisers, and returning to Mr Horton’s extraordinarily loose grip on historical accuracy, his efforts are no where near as gratuitous as some of these examples in the non-airline world.
Does it matter to us what happens to American? Probably no more than a single flight by Qantas into Dallas Fort Worth each day matters to that carrier. If US Airways gets control of the ailing enterprise it might change its name, to US Airways, and it might well exit the oneworld alliance, or, it might build on the Qantas relationship and achieve everything with it that Qantas and its customers could wish for.
What matters for us in the American Airlines epic is what we learn about candid, truthful and useful corporate communications, and the capacity of all media to keep companies honest.
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