Airlines can try to reverse a poor reputation by spending a fortune on new liveries, glossy advertising and new aircraft and then, rather too quickly, a chance remark reminds the world that not so much has changed.
Turkish Airlines had a shocking reputation for safety and service and, to its credit, it has improved though not as much as it needs to. They are definitely not an airline that should be handing out advice to Lufthansa on how to train pilots.
The CEO of the airline, Temel Kotil, apparently has the Germanwings crash all sorted out. “The crash happened after the pilot broke up with his girlfriend” he said in an interview with a Turkish magazine, which is why Turkish Airlines “encourages” its pilots to marry. He also said that his airline was anxious to recruit more female pilots for the same reason.
He is clearly a man of many talents. Not only the CEO of an airline but a world-class psychiatrist as well. Those who have studied the issue of depression will no doubt be fascinated to hear Mr Kotil’s thesis that depression affects single men so much more more than married men or women.
Suggesting that pilots should be “encouraged” to marry has a slightly ominous tinge to it in the context of a country that is veering towards a form of Islamic dictatorship.
There has long been an understanding that airlines never comment publicly on the accidents of other companies. The CEO of Turkish Airlines needs to be forcibly reminded of this.
Meanwhile, these silly remarks are unlikely to make passengers travelling with Turkish Airlines feel any safer.
Turkish Airlines has fought hard over the last few years to build a reputation as a modern, secure, international airline but there are some rather worrying gaps appearing in the carefully created PR image that no amount of sponsorship of glamorous football clubs will hide. The most recent blow is totally self-inflicted and suggests the airline has little idea or concern about how it is viewed by the rest of the world.
The Turkish parliament is debating a law to ban aviation workers from striking. This is just one of many signs of the government’s swing to totalitarianism.
The Turkish Civil Aviation Union reacted by urging members to go sick – the only method of protest available. Turkish Airlines instantly dismissed 150 staff (according to rumours, mostly engineers, cabin staff and at least one Captain).
Turkish Airlines has had one of the worst safety records of any airline in the world. That has improved but, as the accident in Amsterdam showed, they still have problems to overcome. No one likes strikes but the right to strike is a fundamental liberty in any civilised society. If airline employees are fearful of speaking out against their employer or government, safety will be the first casualty.
Air New Zealand have gained a lot of publicity with some of their special safety videos featuring sports and television stars and now Turkish Airlines has jumped on the bandwagon with a special video featuring Wayne Rooney and other Manchester United footballers.
The video is really very long and appears designed for pre-teens. It is vaguely interesting the first time but if you took several flights with the airline, you would get very bored indeed. The whole point of these special videos is that they are supposed to grab the passenger’s attention. Could they possibly have the opposite effect?
Other than for the rather strange English accent of the voice-over artist, the other notable feature is that it is one of the last recordings of Wazza pre-hair transplant.