It was a critical time for Alaska Airlines, and they never encountered such a challenge and crisis in the company’s existence. Flight 261 had crashed killing 88 people on board; while the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was reporting that the potential cause of the crash was due to a lack of regular airplane maintenance.
Most detrimental to the airline was the media published a letter from 64 Alaska Airlines mechanics. The letter disclosed insider information regarding a base maintenance manager’s inappropriate activities of contradicting federal aviation regulations, leading to dangerous operations.This letter also built more evidence that it was Alaska Airlines’ negligence that resulted in the tragedy. In addition to the maintenance crew, the pilots posted a message on the union’s website complaining about the “misconduct” of Alaska Airlines. It was apparent that pilots, a integral assets for an airline company, did not trust corporate management. Alaska Airlines had been run for 70 years and had climbed in status during the 1990s, if the company could not promptly and appropriately handle this crisis, its reputation could be destroyed.It was time to test Alaska Airline’s capability of handling crisis management, management system and labor relations.
Alaska Airline, a veteran in the industry, would have to deal with the public scrutiny as they sorted through the government investigation to determine the exact cause of the crash. In the transportation industry, unions are common which made handling this crisis more difficult. The difficulty is due to every move or conversation the airlines make are out for the public to view and criticize. “Airing the dirty laundry” of Alaska Airlines was an extremely embarrassing situation .Management could not support the criticisms for fear of completely destroying their reputation. However, those criticizing the company were employees and knew firsthand what was happening. In the end, the company has to acknowledge the mismanagement of corporate management team.
This spelled trouble for the airline. However, if everything was handled properly, there were still some possible solutions that would be helpful to the airline. If I were Mr. Hamel, I would communicate with the union panel members immediately.Although there were 64 mechanics participating in the complaint, the decisive power and attitude was in the announcement of the union. If the union sends a clear message to the public to criticize Alaska Airlines, it would lead to unpredictable damage to the future of the company. However, if the union spoke cautiously about the letter, it could help alleviate some of the negative press about the airline.
Alaska Airlines should address the union so they understand that this was an individual case and not how the company runs its day to day operations.The airline would want the union to allow them to address the issue with the public and ensure safer operations in the future. If the union works with Alaska Airlines, they will secure a valuable opportunity to win back their reputation, investigate the issue and restructure its management. Hamel would try his hardest to persuade the union that this was a win-win solution for the union and Alaska Airlines. Second, Hamel needs to set up a joint investigate panel with the union leaders to investigate the complaints thoroughly.If the contents of the complaint were true, that manager should be held accountable. Holding managers accountable proves to the employees that the company does not tolerate unethical management practices.
This should help the employees gain a little more trust into management, knowing that their voices are heard. Then, based on the issue, the investigation could be extended to a broader range to any areas concerning safety. Hamel again should address the union to get cooperation from them.The union needs to see that the airline is taking responsibility for their actions and that will regain some confidence from the union and employees. Considering the power of unions in any industry, it is risky for a company to address sensitive issues without union support. Lastly, Hamel should establish regular communication and develop a problem-solving system that keeps the union in touch with their labor style. It would be in the best interest of the Alaska Airlines to work with union from this point on so any conflicts that may arise are more likely to be worked out privately.
In today’s society all companies are trying to motivate employees to participate in corporate matters and contribute more opinions and ideas. Labor unions can be viewed positively when they help unite the employees and the corporation. The key is how to cooperate with the union and treat it as a resource to develop the business but not a hindrance to the company. By means of tackling this issue strategically, companies can dramatically unite and motivate their employees and finally create a long term win-win situation.