Public Relations Situation – American Airlines


Read and carefully consider the scenario in the Assessment 3 Scenario document, linked in the Required Resources, before beginning on the deliverable for this assessment.

Research and consider reactions to similar incidents to envision possible reactions to this incident. It is likely to receive commentary in the press; with that, passengers or others may choose to comment. While it is not known currently whether the public is aware of the situation, it will be necessary to proactively determine an approach.

Think carefully about the impact of any selected action on the company, the industry, and, of course, the individuals involved. Also, think about any repercussions that may result from the disclosure and the communication approach you select.


You have just been informed that the captain of one of your aircraft became unconscious as the airplane was about to land; the co-pilot took over and landed the craft safely. Upon landing, the aircraft was met by an ambulance, and the unconscious captain was taken to the hospital. Within an hour, you learn that the captain suffered a heart attack and is in critical condition.

The passengers did not know of the captain’s collapse or that anything was amiss at the time. Fortunately, everyone is safe. The station manager who reported the situation to you believes that the passengers all left the airport terminal without talking to the press, but he is not certain that is the case. He is now asking how to handle the situation, suspecting that passengers may talk to the press soon.

You know that a report must be made to the FAA within 24 hours and that this information will become public, even if it is not already.

The concern is how this situation will impact public opinion toward your airline. You wonder: Will people be afraid that you have an aging workforce and that they are not safe? Will potential customers think that this problem could reflect on your airline in other ways, putting maintenance and overall safety into question? In short, will this situation have a negative effect on sales and, thus, profitability?

You, the president, must decide how to handle this situation.

You might choose, for example, not to comment at all and hope that the situation is never revealed. Or you might prepare a fast press release for immediate release, stating that the captain was taken to the hospital but that the plane landed safely, offering no other details. On the other hand, you might prepare a full press release with all details of the incident. Or you might send the CEO on a quick business trip, so that you can claim that no comment is available until the CEO returns, in hopes that the situation will calm down on its own. You might even try to put a positive spin on all of this and create a press release that focuses on the heroic efforts of the first officer who landed the plane.

After reading and considering the Scenario above, complete the following:

  1. Write a 3–5-page analysis in which you complete the following:
    • Analyze the challenges and issues presented by the public relations situation described in the scenario. You are free to embellish details but keep them realistic.
    • Suggest three different public relations approaches to address the issue. Evaluate each approach.
    • Provide a course of action and detail why you chose that action, what you hope it will gain for your airline, and what might go wrong if you made the wrong choice.
  2. Write a press release that supports your chosen course of action. Identify which media you would target and how the targeted message might differ among them.

Additional Requirements

  • Written communication: Written communication is free of errors that detract from the overall message.
  • APA formatting: Resources and citations are formatted according to current APA style and formatting.
  • Length: 3–5 typed, double-spaced pages for the analysis portion of the assessment; there is no length requirement for the press release.
  • Font and font size: Times New Roman, 12-point.


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