Recovering from a Major Aviation Disaster: The Airlines’ Family Assistance Centre
2. Literature Review
2.1. Disaster and Crisis Management
2.2. Legal Requirements on Airlines in the Event of a Crash
2.3. Family Assistance Centres (FACs)
2.3.1. Location of the FAC and Airline Staff Roles
2.3.2. Support Services
2.3.3. In-House Versus Contracting a Disaster Management Company
4. Analysis and Discussion of Findings
4.1. The Case Study of Malaysia Flight MH370
4.2. Key Areas Identified by Interviewees
4.2.2. Emergency Response Training and the Use of a Disaster Management Company
- Good verbal communication skills: effective communication with families is essential;
- Good written communication: The information they collect from families is needed to identify their loved ones and must, therefore, be clear and precise. They also need to complete a daily brief; these briefings can be used in a court of law during the investigation stage;
- Empathy: They must try to understand what these people are going through;
- Tolerance: They will be dealing with people from all walks of life and all cultures and must have the highest respect for everyone.
4.2.3. Brand Recovery
- A caring response;
- Prompt communication;
- Changing the website colours to grey as a sign of mourning;
- Gradually moving the accident site away from the main site;
- Management staff attending the funerals.
5. Conclusions and Recommendations
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Time||Action by Airline|
|T + 15 min||Issue initial social media post confirming preliminary details of the incident.|
As new details emerge, update social media.
|T + 60 min||Draft a more detailed account of the incident and release it via all media, including the organisation’s website and social media. Keep all employees briefed. Maintain a flow of information as new details are confirmed. Use a combination of short social media messages and more detailed accounts released via traditional media and the website.|
|Continued T + 60 min||Review website content to eliminate content that may now appear inappropriate or crass—including promotions, straplines etc. Activate the Dark Site. Keep all sources updated simultaneously.|
|T + 3 h:||Prepare for site visits and first to camera piece by the CEO, or other senior figures from the organisation. |
The organisation may also wish to prepare a professionally filmed statement or statement by the CEO.
|T + 6 h:||Host first press conference with CEO and other airline executives—at airline headquarters or a relevant airport.|
|T + 6–24 h:||Further press releases, conferences and interviews should take place when new information is available. |
These may include joint events with emergency services, response agencies, airport operator, government representatives or investigating body.
|FAC Service Type||Service Description|
|Health service||First aid agency/health service manager|
Provision of onsite physical health and workplace safety services
|Mental health Services||FAC mental health manager|
Provision of emotional support
|Spiritual care||FAC spiritual care manager|
Emotional and spiritual support
Space for prayer
|Security||Police/army/airline security/hotel or building security|
Keeping all persons safe
Keeping all confidential documents secure
To provide basic provisions: Toothbrushes and hygiene accessories, chargers, phone credit, clothes
|Communication room||A space big enough for the police or airline management to address everyone in attendance of the FAC|
|Catering||24-h food supply|
|Insurance company||For the airline to seek permission to spend|
|Interviewee||Reason for Selection—Line of Questioning|
|Peter Bellew, former CEO |
of Malaysia Airlines
|Peter Bellew served as CEO at Malaysia Airlines soon after the two crashes. He experienced first-hand what it is like to deal with the families and friends of victims. The media portrayed Malaysia Airlines as having failed the families of the victims, and the authors wanted to hear from Peter what were the lessons learned from this case and how could Malaysian Airlines’ experience help guide other companies facing a similar situation. The questions were designed to establish what, in his opinion, led to such a negative outcome of the recovery of flight MH370.|
|Conor McCarthy, Dublin |
Aerospace and Emerald CEO
|Conor McCarthy is the co-founder of Air Asia. We wanted to get his insight into what made the Air Asia response to the QZ8501 crash, recognised as representing good practice in taking care of families in the aftermath, so successful. The questions were designed to ascertain what precisely contributed to the successful handling of the victims’ family and friends.|
|Captain Colm Wynn, Aer Lingus Director of Emergency Response||Captain Colm Wynn was selected to discuss the Aer Lingus plan for the management of FACs, in the event of an incident with mass fatalities.|
|Otibho Edeke-Agbareh, |
Humanitarian Service Manager with Kenyon International
|Otibho Edeke-Agbareh works with the friends and families of disaster victims daily. The questions were designed to establish what laws should change to facilitate better care of families and also to explore what are the key things organisations could do to be better prepared for a disaster with mass fatalities|
|Mohd Fuad Sharuji, |
Crisis Director at
|Mohd Fuad Sharuji is the head of Malaysia Airlines’ Post-Accident Office and the airline’s crisis director for the MH17 and MH370 disasters/crises. His insights have been critical for this research.|
|Mike Seear, Crisis Consultant||Mike Seear is a Security and Emergency Response Planning Manager, Kenyon International Emergency Services Senior Associate and Nordic Crisis Management Senior Advisor. The questions focused on FAC and outsourcing.|
|Dr Mazem Bekdash, |
VP for Business Development
at Kenyon International
|Dr Mazem Bekdash is a vice president for business development at Kenyon. The interview questions focused on the importance of retainer and training.|
|Time (In Local Time)||Action|
|12:41 a.m.||MH730 departs KLIA|
|02:40 a.m.||Subang Air Traffic Control loses contact with MH370|
|06:30 a.m.||MH370 scheduled to land in Beijing International Airport, never arrives|
|07:24 a.m.||MAS confirms MH370 missing|
|08:30 a.m.||Estimated time of fuel depletion on MH370|
|09:00 a.m.||MAS begins contacting next-of-kin|
|10:44 a.m.||MAS denies rumour MH370 made emergency landing at Nanming, China|
|01:46 p.m.||Vietnamese media reports MH370 crashed near Tho Chu Island|
|02:30 p.m.||Transport Minister denies the crash report, says awaiting military confirmation|
|No assistance from a disaster management company|
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Brown, L.; Efthymiou, M.; McMullan, C. Recovering from a Major Aviation Disaster: The Airlines’ Family Assistance Centre. Sustainability 2022, 14, 4040. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14074040
Brown L, Efthymiou M, McMullan C. Recovering from a Major Aviation Disaster: The Airlines’ Family Assistance Centre. Sustainability. 2022; 14(7):4040. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14074040Chicago/Turabian Style
Brown, Loraine, Marina Efthymiou, and Caroline McMullan. 2022. "Recovering from a Major Aviation Disaster: The Airlines’ Family Assistance Centre" Sustainability 14, no. 7: 4040. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14074040