How Southwest Airlines Responded to a Midair Tragedy

June 1, 2018

[ntsb via getty images]
[ntsb via getty images]

Senior executives of Southwest Airlines were meeting at a Dallas hotel on April 17 when they learned that their passenger, Jennifer Riordan, had been killed by shrapnel after one of its engines exploded in flight.

As The Wall Street Journal reported on April 25, the incident marked the first passenger death in the airline’s history, and the executive team raced to put its emergency-response plan into action.

Other passengers aboard the flight wept and screamed with oxygen masks strapped to their faces, The New York Times reported. Their cellphone photos, videos and tweets quickly spread on social media, pushing Southwest to respond faster. Gary Kelly, the company’s CEO, promptly delivered a 40-second video apology, and the airline later issued multiple updates. “It is hard to argue with a leader who immediately shows contrition through honest and heartfelt condolences,” David Castelveter, a former airline communications executive, told the Journal.

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