Managing the News – the Emirates Way

Every day I wade through aviation news stories from around the world to see what might be of interest to readers of Inside Traveller. On Sunday I spotted a story from The Herald in Australia suggesting fatigue was a major cause of the near-crash of an Emirates Airbus in Melbourne. The article was a typical “shock horror” Sunday newspaper effort – plenty of unquoted opinions but very few facts.

The original incident got very little coverage in the UK though our readers were given the full story. An Emirates Airbus nearly did not manage to take off from Melbourne due to a crass error in in-putting the aircraft weights into the on-board computer. The other pilot failed to notice the mistake and two other pilots on the flight-deck did nothing. This was very nearly the worst accident in Australian aviation history. The two pilots involved were told they were resigning.

The Australian authorities are currently producing their report on the incident which will make interesting reading. Whenever such an event takes place there will be a number of organisations  trying to push their own agenda. Pilots will do everything they can to defend their position and blame the company’s work practices, the airline and manufacturer will want to blame the pilots and local interests might want to stir things up as well. In this case, there are some people in Australia who will be quite happy for Emirates to have their reputation damaged. In other words, if a journalist wants to write an old-fashioned Sunday tabloid story, he will have plenty of amunition.

This is where it becomes very difficult for Emirates. The original story was “news” in Australia for a day or two but would have been unlikely to get outside the country. However, Emirates felt it necessary to produce a detailed rebuttal of the story – and this was sent all round the world and appeared in many publications that would never have bothered with the original story.

In other words, by defending their position, Emirates gave the story a huge publicity boost – and there will be plenty of people who will believe that the truth lies somewhere between the two versions of the event and that Emirates are somehow to blame.

Emirates spend a fortune on publicity but in this instance, they were stuck. Say nothing and appear guilty or defend themselves and give the story a huge boost.

We should wait for the official report into the incident before making judgements but it is fair to say that there were some pilots who complained about the working hours on this particualr trip long before the incident.

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