American Airlines CEO doesn’t know how to fix 737Max reputation

In one of the rare moments a CEO alike Doug Parker gets asked a question and doesn’t find away of speaking while saying nothing of substance, for once he admitted the truth.

Asked if the airline which has 24 grounded aircraft would reassure passengers as to its safety he said, “we shall see”.

That’s corporate speak for I have no idea and I’m not sure we could even if we tried.

And he embellished that with the following response when it was suggested aggressive marketing might persuade people back on board:

“I don’t know at this point, given the heightened level of interest in this and the news around this, that any amount of marketing would do that”.

You have to remember that United and Southwest have already said they will move people free of charge, to alternate flights if a 737Max is scheduled on their route and they don’t want to get on. It’s good PR but if a plane load of passengers say “no way” – how long is that policy going to last?

Parker has in affect, accepted and understood that for the first time in aviation history, something I’ve said since this saga began has taken hold.

The world is so connected through the internet and social media, there’s virtually nobody on the planet who doesn’t know something about the 737Max saga. They may not understand the intricacies like you do reading this, but they know enough, and it’s enough to stop many flying on them. If I wouldn’t – why should they? It’s hard enough getting some pilots to do so.

Parker’s only solution right now:

What we need to do is have the airplane deemed airworthy, be back in service, have American Airlines pilots flying it. I know, if that’s the case, the aircraft is 100 percent safe.

Really? 100%? Because the FAA and Boeing say so? They said it before and it wasn’t true, forgive us if we find it hard to be convinced now.

United CEO says he’ll be on the first 737Max when it takes off. As if that will make things seem OK.

As a lesson in using yourself or your family to cynically prove how safe something is, there is a much taught lesson. Back in the 1990’s in the UK when Mad Cow disease was scaring everyone John Selwyn Gummer who was agriculture minister at the time, demonstrated his young daughter, about six years old, eating a beef burger. Such acts of faked confidence don’t play well with the public. It was a disaster PR wise and he was accused of risking his child’s life.

Does it make a CEO brave? Is he taking a risk? Should you care?

The best thing in a case like this is let normality take its course. Don’t make a fuss, quietly reintroduce the aircraft and if people don’t want to fly it, make their exit, and the offer of an alternative, easy for them.