Maggie’s Musings: What Your Firm Can Learn from Alaska Airlines Flight 1282

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you are undoubtedly aware of the problems Boeing has been having with their 735 – 9 Max airplanes.


This month, the Federal Airlines Administration (FAA) grounded 171 of Boeing’s 737 -9 Max 9 planes after several major incidents, including Alaska Air Flight 1282, which suffered a mid-flight blowout of a plug filing an unused emergency exit causing rapid decompression of the plane. Fortunately, there were no injuries. However, there was a major blow to Alaska Airlines’ reputation.


As an Alaska Airlines frequent flyer, the incident is of great concern.  However, I have been impressed with how the company has handled the situation—specifically, the video from the Alaska Airlines Chairman, Ben Minicucci.


My takeaways from the videos are:

1. The response came fairly quickly and from the company’s leader. Learn from this– timing is everything. 

2. He tackled the issue head-on and apologized. Do not beat around the bush. 

3. He was a calm, believable, and credible spokesperson. Know who the right person is to convey your message. 

4. He discussed the issue and what was at stake. There was no blame game.

5. He laid out how this would be resolved, emphasizing the primary focus on safety. Always give a solution to the problem. 

6. He reassured passengers whose flights were canceled due to the grounding of the planes, that they would be quickly “re-accommodated.” Keep your customers and clients in the forefront when you respond. 


Law firms can learn from this response. I know because I worked at two AmLaw 200 firms where we had to deal with major crises. One where we did it right, the other not so well. The latter firm is no longer in business. It is important to create a crisis communications plan before a crisis occurs. It is also important to regularly update the stakeholders on the (omit crisis) status of the issue, and the progress being made to resolve it. Alaska Airlines has been updating its website, and the CEO has been regularly speaking to various news outlets. A company can “recover” from a crisis if they handle it correctly.


Let Alaska Airlines be your example, and your warning: if you do not have a crisis communications plan in place now, you need to. 

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