Perceiving is believing: How consumers’ attributions about the cause of the Ansett Airlines’ safety crisis impacted outcomes
MetadataShow full item record
n 2001, the now defunct airline, Ansett, was enmeshed in a major safety crisis when its fleet of 10 Boeing 767s was grounded by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) after safety checks revealed engine pylon cracks. The grounding caused flight cancellations, mass disruptions of passengers, reputation damage and multi�llions of dollars in lost market share for Ansett. A series of focus groups held soon after the groundings revealed three sets of consumer perceptions about the crisis cause: that Ansett was at fault for the safety crisis due to poor maintenance; that the government agency, CASA and, in part, the media, were to blame for scapegoating Ansett and blowing the crisis out of proportion; and that maintenance problems were endemic to the Australian airline industry due to cost�tting following deregulation, with the Federal government also held to blame for the situation. Using Weiner's (1986, 1995) attribution theory, this paper describes how participants' three different attributions about the cause of the Ansett crisis determined different emotional and behavioural reactions to the company. They also affected consumers' judgments about the company's crisis management, attitudes towards a $20 million advertising campaign and, ultimately, may have contributed to the company's path to ruin. The results indicated that, as part of a crisis management strategy, companies need to monitor, not only media communications about the crisis, but consumers' perceptions of these stories, and their attributions about crisis cause in order to correct misconceptions and mitigate crisis damage.
Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal