Appropriate or Not?

There’s no doubt that the Malaysian Air story has been one of intrigue and disaster for the past several days. For the casual observer, it has been one where imaginations have run wild and theories abound. For the families involved though, I can’t imagine how they have processed all of the information, and lack of information, that has been spread.  This obviously has been a grueling time for them specifically.

News broke last week that some debris was located off the coast of Australia. Weather was an issue and searchers were having trouble getting to that location to verify it. Finally, news today says that it is debris from the crash of the flight in the Indian Ocean. Families were notified by the following text message…

Malaysian Air Message

I’m curious to gain the thoughts of others on this, but to me, I question if a text message is the most appropriate way to communicate this information? If an employer decides to terminate an employee, and does so by text message…we cry foul. If a boyfriend breaks up with his girlfriend by text message…we berate him for being insensitive or a coward. These are not nearly as important as informing someone that their loved one has been lost. Maybe speed was the issue here and the airline wanted families to know before they heard or saw it on the news…but that seems to be something the airline could address by having people on standby ready to call those families personally and share this news. Maybe the airlines had families elect how they wanted to be updated with any new information and a text message was one of the options…but I still believe this is information that should be shared in a more personal way.

Look, I know these are difficult circumstances to deal with. I don’t know that there is a perfect way to handle this when these situations arise. I have no doubt that those making the decisions are doing the very best that they can, and I would not want to be in the role of deciding these types of things. It’s hard enough for me to call someone and tell them that they didn’t get a job, much less something far more personal and devastating like this news.

What are your thoughts on the appropriateness of this way of communication?

My prayers go out to all of these families and those involved in other ways. May God bring comfort to them during these days.

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2 responses to “Appropriate or Not?

  1. Certainly the text message is the fastest way to get info to all of the families of the passengers, especially if the airline is attempting to inform families prior to the announcement by the prime minister. It would appear that the decision by the Malaysian government to announce the deaths of those on the plane was a surprise to the airline. So is the airline simply trying to cover its surprise or save face?

    For me, the question then becomes, is it appropriate to save face in Malaysian culture by making this announcement via text before the Prime Minister makes the announcement?

    I don’t think American Airlines would try to beat the President on such an announcement by using text messages. But perhaps the President would not announce anything formal until he heard from the airline and the airline had time to call all the families in question. I doubt that the Malaysian government waited for the airline when they set up a press conference, deeming the announcement of death to be culturally appropriate in spite of business practices.

    If it were American Airlines, I would say “inappropriate.” Since it is in Malaysian Airlines, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt based on cultural issues.

    • Good thoughts. Keep in mind though, the country of Malaysia is a stakeholder in the airline itself. So if the airline has bad news, it impacts the country as well. It would be like if the US had invested in American Airlines and their return was being impacted by the news of a crash and the loss of life. A good example would be that the US bailed out (invested) in GM a few years ago…the US has a stake in the news from GM being good and do what it can to protect their investment.

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