Whether you believe that the FAA is on a mission to make itself look better, merely do what it should have been doing all along, or catching up on a few “loose ends” by demanding that the bundles inside the wheel wells of MD-80s be tied at one-inch intervals — one thing is pretty clear.
American Airlines has done a god-awful job of communicating with its employees, the press, and most importantly, its passengers, about this whole incident.
Yesterday, way too late after the fact, and after one of its corp comm spokespersons had walked off camera, rather than answer a safety-related question put to him by a reporter, the airline finally put an executive in front of the press — acting in an official capacity. Even worse, this “better-late-than-never” attempt was not a pretty sight.
Dan Garton, the airline’s marketing guy, called a press conference and attempted to give the company’s side of the story.
If you haven’t read about it, you can do so at the Dallas Morning News‘ AirlineBiz blog.
The problem is — if American Airlines takes maintenance and safety seriously — why are they trotting out their marketing person to talk about it? And folks, I have to tell you, Dan was not very good. If the bet on someone’s part was that he would be better on-camera then Bob Redding — well, that bet was wrong.
Q. Did your mechanics not understand it or did they ignore it?
A. It’s a relatively significant engineering change order. It’s about 30 pages. The mechanics understood it. When they accomplished it, they took what I would call certain latitudes in accomplishing it. My example would be where they tied those cords.
I think what they didn’t understand that there is a sort of greater focus on strict enforcement or strict compliance with the rules of the AD. The rules have gone to a very strict level of enforcement, and we will meet that and get the planes back in the air.
We had a call last night from someone who told us that the reason American Airlines’ Gerard Arpey has been missing in action on all this was because he left the morning it all began to fly to Los Angeles and a meeting of oneworld. Consequently, he then faced a problem in trying to get back to Dallas.
Does he fly back on a private jet? Does he fly back on Southwest? Does he drive a Hertz rent-a-car? Does he bump an already-inconvenienced American revenue passenger?
Well — my response this morning would have to be, “Why not call a press conference in Los Angeles?” They do have media in LA. It’s not like he was in Slovenia. Or up with the ice truckers in Yellowknife.
Finally — as of this morning, the airline still does not have an easy way for passengers to find out if their flight has been canceled or not. People can’t get to the airline on the phone — as reports of system overload abound. And when you go to the airline’s website, there is no easy to find list of canceled flights.
Terrible, terrible, terrible job by the airline in handling this. Five thumbs down. (I got the cats to join in so we’d have enough.)
Unprecedented happening today here at PlaneBuzz. Two Buzz Bombs in one week. One to union leadership at one of American’s unions for its action against one of its members who dared speak the truth. And today — the second one to American Airlines’ management — which seems to be having real problems in figuring out what the truth is, and more importantly, in conveying that truth to the general public.