How well did Germanwings handle the aftermath of 4U9525?

Germanwings A320 (D-AIPX) involved in the crash of flight 4U9525 on March 24, 2015 (Source: Sébastien Mortier, Flickr)

Germanwings A320 (D-AIPX) involved in the crash of flight 4U9525 on March 24, 2015 (Source: Sébastien Mortier, Flickr)

Needless to say, the crash of Germanwings flight 4U9525, enroute from Barcelona to Düsseldorf last Tuesday took us all by surprise. The crash and investigation are widely covered by news organizations worldwide, the authorities and of course the airline. But what communications with the public? How well has the airline handled them?

IATA created a document titled Dealing with the News Media after an Aviation Accident. It is a set of guidelines intended for airlines, aircraft manufacturers and other companies and gives clear and sensible recommendations designed for our social media age. Coicidentally, I happened to revisit them the day before the crash, after an visitor like you asked me a question on that topic.

They were written in the wake of the highly-mediatized Qantas flight 32 incident in November 2010, where an Airbus A380 had an uncontained engine failure after take-off from Singapore. Before the airline had a chance to issue a statement or organize a press conference, the social media reported debris falling from the sky and assumed the plane had exploded inflight. As we now, the plane returned safely to Singapore with no loss of life at all, but Qantas temporarily grounded its A380 fleet.

Perhaps this is the reason why when the initial reports of an accident involving a Germanwings flights surfaced on Tuesday, March 24, Germanwings and Lufthansa simply stated it was investigating and that it wasn’t sure of what happened. Perhaps they wanted to avoid a situation such as Qantas flight 32.

For several hours, Germanwings’ website was unavailable. Furthermore, the airline confirmed what happened…

(For the English version, click on “See More”)

… well after the French authorities reported that the plane did crash and that there were likely no survivors.

I felt very sorry for Germanwings and even a little frustrated. Judging from certain comments left by some Facebook followers, I feared that the airline would sustain reputational damage and that people would stop turning to them for information.

But then, the airline set up a dedicated information section on its website and started publishing frequent updates on Facebook, Twitter. It changed its website and social media color schemes to a grey. It also received marks of sympathy came from everywhere around the world.

Even when it was revealed that the crash was deliberately caused by the copilot, the airline was a class act in my opinion: it insisted that it has total faith in its pilots…

(For the English version, click on “See More”)

…and reassured the public that effective immediately, they were are taking certain precautions to avoid such a situation in the future.

(For the English version, click on “See More”)

What about you? What is your opinion of the way Germanwings handled its communications with the public?

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