Yes the title is a Star Wars reference. Qatar Airways has given a statement and shared it via social media. The Tweet can be found below. The message arrives along with the flight disruption. It is a simple statement and what we would call a holding statement. It provides instructing information for is customers—what they should do physically during the crisis (flights are a physical activity). Holding statements are very basic and should be pre-drafted before a crisis so that they can be distributed quickly. The focus is on the operational disruption and how it affects stakeholders, not the reputation. However, how an organization handles instructing (and adjusting) information does affect it reputation—how it is perceived by stakeholders. Virtually any communication can have reputational effects. Instructing and adjusting information privilege the stakeholder/victims are essential elements of the response. Without instructing and adjusting information, reputation management messages have little chance of having a meaningful impact because their lack signals a either a lack of concern for stakeholders or a lack of “control” in the crisis situation. Neither are good looks for an organization in crisis. Managers cannot always respond quickly in a crisis because they need to collect and to analyze information. But, holding statements should be provided quickly if the managers have planned ahead.
The diplomatic move was not unexpected and is a crisis situation that should have had a holding statement in advance. Here is a description from the BBC:
“Disruption to airspace in the Gulf began on Tuesday morning local time. Doha, Qatar’s capital, is a major hub for international flight connections.
Airlines affected by the airspace restrictions include Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates.
When avoiding Saudi Arabia, their massive – and only – neighbour, Qatar’s planes are having to take more indirect routes, leading to longer flight times.”
A map of the route changes is provided below.
Essentially this type of holding statement can be used with any type of flight disruption with minor modifications for the reason behind the disruption. All airlines should have holding statements ready for flight disruptions, a common crisis in the industry. Qatar Airways looks “slow” in the response because Etihad Airways responded first. Given Qatar Airways had more at stake, you would have expected a response from it first. The response appears slow because it was not around the time of the announcement of the crisis. It is a little unfair, but timing is important in a digital world.
Questions to Consider
- Why might Qatar Airways have been so slow in posting the response? Defend the action.
- Why should Qatar Airways have anticipated a need for such a holding statement?
- Why can holding statements be so important to stakeholders?