14/07/20162 min read
On July 14th, 2014 I took managing control over the Delta Pilot’s online communication. Three days into the new role at the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was tragically shot down killing all 298 people on board.
I still feel the magnitude and implications of that act when I recall the moment.
As news of the tragedy rippled throughout the industry, it is here in this crisis that we see the solidarity, responsibility, and strength of the aviation community. A community that I was a part of. The pilots group had no established plan for this level of emergency on our new social media platforms.
Three days into my role I was thrust into action. All scheduled activity was quickly wiped from the que. In coordination with our Comm Chairman, Comm Spec, and National, I quickly drafted a communications strategy for handling the specific intricacies inherent in social media which was readily implemented. I am told that these guidelines were later used alongside ALPA National’s and other airline groups’ strategies as well.
March 8, 2014. Not long after MH17, MH370 went missing over the South China Sea. Each tragedy is different and posses different challenges. The nature of MH370’s disappearance wrapped the online environment in a fog of misinformation. While in most cases, the role of pilot group communications in crisis to provide support and solidarity, MH370 added an extra layer of getting that message through clouds of misinformation. The worst thing for reporters or observers to do online is to begin speculating. This leads to a myriad of unhelpful outcomes. While the Delta group had not much information to add to this, this tragedy served as a prompt to evaluate our strategy for dispelling rumors and combating misinformation. The communication strategies that were developed form this event, later were used as a basis for future negotiations and communication.
There are few people who have no stress when they come to a new crisis. Honestly I experienced my share in these events, but it is through these events that we are tested and grow our capacity. It is in these times that we see the strength of the industry and organization.