How Southwest Airlines Is Dealing With The Aftermath Of Flight 1380 Says A Lot About Their Culture

“We’ve never had a passenger fatality. It affects everyone,” Chief Executive Gary Kelly said in his first extensive interview since the accident.

It’s the first quote you read in the excellent article written by Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal.  Southwest, the airline with a heart painted on the bottom of their airplanes, dealing with the most tragic of consequences.  An engine exploded mid-air, ultimately leading to the death of one passenger onboard.  It’s an unthinkable tragedy and an incident that also could have been much worse.

If you don’t have a Wall Street Journal subscription, you might have to Google the title, “At Southwest Airlines, the Minutes After Disaster Struck”.  It’s worth a read.

McCartney takes us through the initial response from Southwest in detail.  The airline that always seems a bit like an underdog seems to have also reached the right balance on how to navigate a path through the early parts of the tragedy.

Crisis communications experts have applauded that public response as timely and effective. Mr. Kelly quickly delivered a 40-second video apology. The airline issued multiple updates with brief facts after the April 17 event. The pilots who got the plane quickly to safe altitude, then onto the ground, were hailed as heroes.

In those minutes and hours after the incident, Southwest did a number of small, but significant things I wouldn’t have expected.  They obviously put some thought into how they’d handle a situation like this if it ever happened.  Words are one thing.  Actions are another.  That first video appearance by Gary Kelly must have been excruciating.  And yet, he did his job to strike the right tone.  What happened afterwards is even more telling about the culture of an airline committed to their customers.

Four Southwest employees flew to Albuquerque, Ms. Riordan’s home, to help her family with travel arrangements.

Close to 90 passengers opted for a Southwest flight to Dallas Tuesday evening just for survivors.

On the second day, passengers received personal phone calls and emails offering resources, including counseling services.

The Final Two Pennies

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be on a flight with a fatality.  I don’t know what would feel “right” to me.  Cynics could dismiss Southwest’s efforts as spin, trying to control the message.  I couldn’t disagree more strongly.  Their actions seem very thoughtful given the circumstances.  Many of these action weren’t things they broadcast.  Heck, they stopped advertising on the internet as soon as the incident happened.

The death of a passenger onboard haunts me, as I’m sure it does many others.  Southwest’s actions continue to earn my respect.

The post How Southwest Airlines Is Dealing With The Aftermath Of Flight 1380 Says A Lot About Their Culture was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. I continue to be impressed with SW through this tragedy….just like I am impressed with them every time I fly.

    1. I agree… we over use the term in our numbed society… however, I’m glad they executed well on their training.

  2. SWA has a rep for turning the planes around quicker then it competitors. A major reason is it workforce. Then I read in the WSJ that the FAA fined SWA for delays at O’Hare during the terrible weather in Chicago. Why financially hurt a business when it’s usually an industry leader.

  3. They are not the most comfortable airline to fly on, but they are what they say they are and show their heart as advertised. Well done SW.

    Only US Airline that has what I could call… a brand.

  4. Although a single engine descent and landing is rather routine, an emergency descent with a broken airplane that had an explosive decompression is a whole different story. Still not sure if it deserves a hero badge. As a pilot, I would feel as though I am doing my job. Hero is landing an airplane with no power and no energy (airspeed) from 2800 feet! Thats some serious heroism! Now these were excellent pilots, who pulled off a perfect emergency descent and landing , keeping the remaining passengers safe.

    Theres an additional pressure nowadays.. you know as you are handling that emergency, that every word you say, and every move you make from that point forward will be judged by millions and millions of people. Keeping that minor little factor out of your mind and staying focused… hmmm Maybe they were Heros!!!

  5. Additionally – southwest immediately changed their social media and website following the event. For a number of days after the event they changed the heart logo from the bright fun colored version to a somber blue version as a sign of solidarity. Additionally they removed all of the flashy advertising from their homepage during that time. Subtle differences that should be applauded.

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