When a bad story is about to break, you want to get the whole thing out at once, and you want your first story to be the story.
The worst thing that happens when a story goes wrong is to lose control of the narrative. You don’t want a drip, drip, drip of facts spilling out and extending the story. And you don’t want your narrative to fall apart.
That’s why you need to come out with a story that is true and that holds together. Don’t give people anywhere to go with the story.
So when Southwest Airlines’ operation melted down last weekend, what did they do? They blamed weather an the FAA. But the FAA hit back, hard.
Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place. (2/2)
— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) October 10, 2021
Air traffic control real-time status is always available for the public.
Look any time. Go to the source and check it out yourself: https://t.co/2JqKd70wIr
— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) October 11, 2021
Other airlines with hubs in the same cities, like Denver where some of the largest number of cancellations happened, didn’t experience major disruption. Southwest’s home base is Dallas, and so is American’s, and American didn’t experience more than 10% the level of cancellations that Southwest saw.
So how is Southwest now explaining cancelling a quarter of their flights on Sunday? Disruptions in Orlando on Friday. Um, ok.
One of our largest Crew Bases is at Orlando International Airport, and that airport was shut to departing and arriving air traffic for approximately seven hours on Friday—preventing the flow of aircraft and Crews into the network.
There were fast stories about pilots protesting vaccine mandates. The union disavowed this (of course, because it would have been illegal) and Southwest claims no knowledge to support this. But in the absence of an explanation that actually makes any sense – in the absence of clear communication, with the full true story, that’s become the dominant narrative. In other words, the story has gotten away from them.
At a minimum, in a crisis situation you don’t want to be changing stories. Stick to your narrative, gaslight if you have to, but changing up your explanation means you’ve already lost.