Boeing struggling with Mt. Everest PR challenge

No amount of public relations spin can repair the reputational hit from two deadly plane crashes. But Boeing may have further damaged itself with muddled communications that downplayed its responsibility in the disasters, reports BSS.

Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg has insisted there was “no surprise or gap” in the design of the top-selling 737 MAX aircraft, even as the company works to correct issues and persuade regulators that a software update should be enough clear the planes to fly again.

The plane has been grounded worldwide since the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight plunged the company into crisis mode. It came on the heels of an October crash of a Lion Air flight in Indonesia, two accidents that claimed 346 lives.

“We own it,” Muilenburg has said of the crisis.

But some aviation and public relations experts said the Boeing CEO has tried to walk back that buck-stops-here sentiment by blaming the crashes on a “chain of events” with “no singular” cause.

“You can’t follow one consistent train of thought on anything that’s come out of Chicago,” Jim Hall, former head of the National Transportation Safety Board, said of Boeing’s leadership.

“I don’t think they’ve been credible or responsible in the information they’ve provided,” he said in an interview. “They certainly haven’t been transparent.”

And aviation expert Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group said Boeing has been “a little bit more defensive than they need to be.”

“They really need to stick with taking ownership.”

But Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the company was restricted in how much it can divulge because of international protocol on crash investigations.

“As we’ve learned additional information, it’s incumbent on us to be as transparent as possible,” he said. “We know we have work to do to restore the trust of pilots and crews, international regulators and the traveling public.”

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