JetBlue’s Response to Pilot Outburst Now On Course

Thanks to crowded cabins, wailing babies and scrunched schedules, the airline experience for most people can rarely be described as “fun.” In the recent past, most major airlines have dealt with irate, unruly or irrational passengers—and even a stressed-out flight attendant. More rare is the irrational pilot.

In fact, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who landed his jet safely on the Hudson River in 2009, told CBS News that the Tuesday, March 27, erratic behavior by JetBlue pilot Clayton Osbon on flight 191 was unlike anything he’d heard of in his entire aviation career.

JetBlue has been under the microscope in how it handled this unique situation. The reaction so far is mostly positive. The JetBlue co-pilot on the flight was lauded by passengers and the public via social media for first having the wherewithal to get Osbon out of the cockpit and, second, keeping him from coming back into the cockpit. Passengers who subdued Osbon were also singled out for heroism.

Meanwhile, JetBlue has used Twitter and its own blog to keep customers informed of the situation. The BlueTales blog has addressed the “top 10 questions we’re getting and the facts as we know them.” And CEO David Barger went on the Today show Wednesday morning to talk about the incident. Barger took an empathetic approach toward Osbon, saying he has known him for "a long time" and that he has always been a "consummate professional." Still, there are those who think JetBlue was somewhat off course in its initial crisis response, questioning the airline’s description of the incident as a “medical emergency,” for example.

This afternoon, Osbon was charged with "interfering" with crew instructions. Just what led a “consummate professional” to lose it on the flight may be cloaked in mystery, but so far JetBlue’s response to the crisis has been anything but mysterious.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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