Asiana Airlines Ought to Stay on Message


There are always going to be creepy people who get their kicks from tragedy. And the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport, which killed three people and injured dozens of others, is no exception.

In a report last week, the Oakland TV station KTVU broadcast four erroneous names for the pilots of Flight 214 after a National Transportation Safety Board intern mistakenly confirmed them as being correct, according to 

The source of the fake names is unknown.

The NTSB and the TV station have apologized for the report. Nonetheless, the Korean carrier said it plans to sue KTVU on the grounds of defamation. The airliner said it is not going to pursue legal action against the NTSB.

"This legal action is being taken because of the KTVU report that not only disparaged Asians in general through the use of racially charged epithets, but also severely damaged the reputation of Asiana Airlines," the company said in a statement, per

We can appreciate how upset the company is with the TV station’s erroneous report. But a lawsuit—particularly after the TV station has apologized profusely—sends the wrong message to the public.

In the wake of the crash, Asiana Airlines should focus its communications on developments in the investigation and how the company is helping to care for the people who have been injured and their families.

Following such a horrible event, suing a TV station whose real crime seems to be one of inattention seems petty. It trivializes the crash. People can now be excused for thinking that the company is using the TV lawsuit to deflect attention away from the contents of the crash. Bad form. The airline should be taking steps to tell people exactly what went wrong and not eroding its brand by procuring such a frivolous lawsuit.

Here is the offending broadcast:

Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1.



About Matthew Schwartz

Group Editor, PR News: Matthew Schwartz is group editor of PR News, the leading source of trends, how-to content and best practices for PR professionals. Matthew leads the editorial strategy for PR News’ premium content products—including its weekly newsletter—and for its digital presence. Matthew was editor of PR News from 2003-2005. Prior to returning to PR News, Matthew was a reporter for Crain’s BtoB and Media Business magazines, where he covered business marketers and media companies. He was also editor of BMA Buzz, a biweekly email newsletter covering B2B marketing, advertising and social media, and contributing writer to Advertising Age Custom. Matthew has helped to launch blogs on behalf of ZoomInfo and direct marketing agency The Kern Organization. He also spent a few years in cable-news precincts, working as a writer/producer at CNN and Fox News Channel.

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  • Anon

    Have you thought about it this way? Asiana Airlines is not the one trivializing the crash by suing KTVU. KTVU is actually the one doing so by publishing blatantly erroneous names that try to make comedy out of tragedy. Various media outlets have already tried to point the blame at Asian culture being a cause in this crash, but investigations have not proven this as true, nor does it warrant the permission to make racist jokes about the names of the pilots involved.

    • Anon Too

      KTVU wasn’t trying “to make comedy out of tragedy.” They screwed up, big time, when they reported what they thought were the real names of the pilots.