Asiana Airlines Crash Crisis Management 2.0 — Case Study and Analysis

My wife is a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook COO. As she was browsing Facebook on her mobile yesterday, she exclaimed to me that Sheryl had almost boarded an Asiana flight that crashed in San Francisco. Upon hearing this, I quickly logged on to Twitter, and instinctively searched #SFOcrash.

And there it was, to my horror, live photos and updates of the burning fuselage. And updates coming from not just San Francisco, but all over the world about the crash that had happened halfway across the globe, just minutes prior. The good news was a large majority of the passengers were safe, and the crew had been extremely agile to ensure that injuries and fatalities remained as low as possible. 


I sprung into action, and I knew I had to capture key information regarding the incident, as it happened. I coordinated with my team mate, Marco Serusi, and together we pieced together the key information on the Asiana Airlines Crash crisis management one-by-one to put together the following analysis from a crisis communications perspective. 

Our key findings were:

  • The first tweet about the incident was sent out a mere 30 seconds after the crash. And this person was quoted over 4,000 times in the media in the next 24 hours.
  • Passengers were posting information not just on Twitter and Facebook, but also on Path and Sina Weibo.
  • A number of organisations, like San Francisco International Airport, the NTSB, Boeing and a few other airlines did a stellar job of keeping travellers updated of the latest situation.
  • Unfortunately, Asiana Airlines, with the world’s eyes set on it, was slow to respond and was far from satisfying the insatiable need for more information in the hours after the crash.
  • The lesson learnt is that social media needs to be an integral part of any crisis management plan for an airline or an airport today. There is no longer the luxury to respond in two hours, or even twenty minutes.
  • The savvy journalists are not waiting by their fax machine for an official press release, but are ready to quote Live accounts of passengers and bystanders being shared online. 

If you are an airline or airport that feels the need to stay up to date with the latest crises management best practices, here are some resources:
1. Top 10 aviation crises management case studies
2. Aviation Crisis Management infographic
3. Royal Brunei Airlines emergency landing case study
4. Over 50 of SimpliFlying’s crisis management updates and articles
5. SimpliFlying in-house Crises Management MasterClass
If we can be of any help, with our consulting or training services, please feel free to get in touch.

  • Download the latest “SimpliFlying Airline Crisis Guide” – An overview of 6 types of airlines crises concerning social media, including real-world case studies from recent years.
  • Preview Crisis Communications Quarterly Report – An in-depth report of the 15 most important airline crises and disruptions from the latest quarter, assessing how they were handled, and how they could have been handled better.
Featured Image: From Washington Post.

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