Crisis Response Strategies and Themes during the COVID-19 Pandemic in EU Aviation, Airlines’ Executives Communication with Shareholders: A Content Analysis
Purpose: The aim of the article is to analyse European Union airlines top-level executives COVID-19 aviation crisis communication with their shareholders in terms of both crisis response strategies used and the themes addressed. Design/Methodology/Approach: Context analysis method was used to examine the top-level executives of five major European Union airlines (Lufthansa, Ryanair, SAS, Wizz Air and KLM) COVID-19 aviation crisis communication with their shareholders. Analyzed data consisted of C-level executives’ letters to shareholders, collected from the available annual reports covering the period of COVID-19 aviation crisis. Data analysis of the available body of text was conducted in the dual procedure – to identify SCCT crisis response strategies. Findings: Research shows that EU airlines mostly rely on diminish (mostly through justification – minimizing the perceived damage caused by the crisis) and bolstering (mostly through reminding the stakeholders about the past good works of the organization) crisis response strategies in their COVID-19 aviation crisis communication with shareholders. There is a difference in the themes present in the crisis communication between traditional and low-cost airlines, as low-cost airlines include themes of new and adjusted services and future of aviation more often than legacy airlines in their COVID-19 aviation crisis communication with shareholders. Practical implications: Research results enable managers to better understand airlines crisis response strategies, and by providing examples of messages used it may help crisis response managers prepare their message. The study can be useful in future decision-making in the area of crisis communication. Originality/Value: The originality of the research results primarily from the focus on crisis communication conducted by airlines top-level executives targeted towards shareholders understood as key stakeholders.