In QZ8501 tragedy, AirAsia boss harnesses Twitter to show public leadership
Published: 2 January 2015
Formal press statements from the airline with updates on the crisis and ongoing recovery of bodies and wreckage are being issued to the media on a daily basis, but it is the CEO’s Twitter posts since day one that have engaged the public, rallied the staff’s spirits and kept the brand looking positive, even as the tragedy unfolded.
“On my way to Surubaya where most of the passangers (sic) are from as with my Indonesian management. Providing information as we get it,” he tweeted on December 27, even before local news outlets reported on the incident.
Over the past week, his flurry of tweets had ranged from frank admissions that the tragedy was the “worst nightmare” and “soul-destroying”, to calls for hope and prayers that the passengers would be safe.
“I as your group CEO will be there though these hard times. We will go through this terrible ordeal together and I will try to see as many of you,” he wrote.
Keeping morale high despite the tragic circumstances, Fernandes praised his “brave, strong and committed” staff from Indonesia, adding “my pride for them is enormous”.
On Tuesday, he related how the AirAsia crew sang in a plane his daughter boarded to Bali, saying that he wanted “the world to know what amazing people I have in this company”.
“She told me what amazing service our cabin crew gave and how everyone was so happy. It shows the spirit and the strength of our people,” he wrote, which was retweeted 305 times.
When authorities announced that wreckage and bodies were spotted at sea, Fernandes wasted no time in personally apologising and expressing his grief to the families of the QZ8501’s passengers.
“My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501. On behalf of AirAsia my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am,” he tweeted, adding he was rushing to Surabaya to do all he could.
Media outlets have compared Fernandes’s proactive stance with the “uncertainty” displayed by Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya when MH370 went missing in March.
Flight QZ8501 crashed into the Java Sea early Sunday morning in bad weather while flying from Surabaya to Singapore with 155 passengers, including 16 children and one infant.
The passengers comprised 149 Indonesians, three South Koreans, one Singaporean, one Malaysian and one Briton. The co-pilot was a French national.
Sixteen bodies have been recovered to date, media agencies have reported.
Fight attendant Hayati Lutfiah Hamid, 39, was the first victim to be identified and was buried yesterday.
The plane was travelling at 32,000 feet (9,753 metres) and had asked to fly at 38,000 feet to avoid bad weather. When air traffic controllers granted permission for a rise to 34,000 feet a few minutes later, they received no response and lost radar contact with the Airbus 320-200 minutes later. – January 2, 2015.