Adversity as serious as a hole in the roof of a jetliner at 30,000 feet can still turn to advantage with the right crisis planning and response. Southwest Airlines has come through that potentially deadly and damaging event with flying colors. The hole tore through the roof of a Southwest 737-300 as it cruised above Arizona on its way to Sacramento. Instantly, the well-trained flight crew acted to divert and land the plane with no incident. Next, company leaders wasted no time, grounded the fleet and halted business operations while taking full responsibility for pinpointing the problem.
Almost immediately, media attention was pointed at the aircraft’s manufacturer and Southwest’s safety and inspection records were heralded by the National Transportation Safety Board. An event that could have sent air travelers in droves to the competition has potentially strengthened customer loyalty to an airline known for low-price and high-service. In the end, Southwest’s crisis plan involving fast action and free-flowing information is winning praise from airline industry analysts, public relations experts and most importantly, customers.