Article by Katy Zielinski | esPResso Committee Member
On March 24, a Germanwings airplane carrying 150 passengers suddenly crashed in a remote part of the French Alps. Germanwings is a low-budget airline operated by Lufthansa, and the company took immediate action to ensure that this crisis was handled correctly. With new information about the cause of the crash being released each day, the company is making sure that it remains transparent throughout its recovery efforts.
The crash has since been blamed on the co-pilot, Andres Lubitz, who it would appear deliberately crashed the plane after locking the pilot out of the cockpit. The first rescuer on the scene, Jean Sebastien Beaud, reported to BBC News that, “After a few seconds on the ground I understood there would be no survivors.” Since the crash, Lubitz’s mental health and other personal issues have been brought into question.
Fearful of the damage this crisis could have on the company’s reputation, Lufthansa’s CEO Carsten Spohr and Germanwings’ CEO Thomas Winkelmann addressed a crowd of reporters on April 1 from the crash site, stating, “It will take a long time for all of us to understand how this could happen,” according to Reuters. The company has set up Family Assistance Centers (FAC) in Marseille, Barcelona and Dusseldorf where more than 90 staff members are offering support and care. Spohr also thanked the local residents and recovery workers for their hard work and patience.
Lufthansa has been applauded for its quick, thoughtful response during this tragedy. The Drum spoke with many public relations professionals to see what they thought of the airline’s response. Mark Borkowski, founder of Borkowski PR, emphasized that Spohr showed “a balance of empathy and corporate diligence.” The company had a clear and consistent message when speaking to the press. It employed a handful of crisis communication techniques from the speed of communication to showing empathy. Borkowski offered that this is, “the ideal level of commitment and dedication required to address all the issues of the catastrophe.”
Although it is too soon to tell what kind of long-term damage this crisis will have on Lufthansa’s and Germanwings’ reputations, the company acted quickly to assure customers that it is taking all necessary steps to investigate the incident to avoid similar incidents in the future.