Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Corporate and Industrial Communications



First Advisor

Michael Castro

Second Advisor

Tom Dehner

Third Advisor

Joe Manoogian


This project-based thesis examines the issue of crisis management, focusing on communication as an integral part of an organization's response to crisis. It explores the benefits of a crisis communication plan to successfully respond to a crisis situation and explores the components, writing style and considerations of a manual that make such a plan useable. This research highlights these communication challenges in relation to the airline industry, and more specifically, to the branch offices of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), by applying the information gathered into a written crisis communication manual.

Chapter one of this thesis discusses the importance of effective and efficient communication in the aftermath of a crisis and the necessity for organizations to prepare for a crisis situation through the creation, maintenance and practice of a crisis communication manual. The chapter discusses the difficul6es of creating a crisis communication manual specific to an organization and uses the research to outline general guidelines that form the basis of every crisis plan. It also introduces the specific challenges of the airline industry in the event of a major crisis, illustrating these challenges by detailing ALP A's response to the crash of TWA's Flight 800.

The literature-based research is detailed in chapter two, highlighting each source, its focus and level of detail. However, understanding the stress, confusion and numerous responsibilities to consider in the aftermath of a crisis is difficult to learn through this written medium. For this reason, a number of personal interviews with pilots and ALPA staff members who responded to TWA's Flight 800 were conducted during the research process, and detailed in chapter three. These interviews provide an inside look at the successes and pitfalls of a specific response to a crisis in the airline industry. They also provide a detailed view of how ALPA field offices function in times of crisis, thus contributing to the conceptualization of how a crisis communication manual should be written specific to the organization.

The suggestions and guidance gathered from literature written on the subject of crisis communication, coupled with the advice from those pilots and ALPA staff who responded to Flight 800, are applied in chapter four to create an actual crisis communication manual for ALPA branch offices. Through a series of checklists and expanded information sections, this manual focuses on four possible crisis scenarios including an airplane crash, a criminal act, a major mechanical incident and a pilot incident.

Eliciting the editorial assistance of pilots and ALPA staff members resulted in a crisis communication manual that is specific to the airline industry and the offices of ALPA. These individuals agree, as reported in chapter five, that the steps outlined in the manual are consistent with ALPA pilot and staff responsibilities, are developed in an accessible fom1at, and will provide needed guidance to ALPA branch offices during times of crisis. This manual serves as a "work in progress" and must be continually updated, practiced and supported by all individuals involved to successfully aid in crisis response.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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