Pilots have sure hands, speak calmly, and don't panic in the face of a rapid plummet. The same skills are good for any PR pro to have. So it's good that Bruce Schedlbauer, a pilot as well as the PR man for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, didn't hit the eject button in the midst of a Grand Rapids Press story about more than a quarter of potential passengers choosing other airports.
In the face of this "rapid plummet" of passenger market share, Schedlbauer spoke calmly and honestly, acknowledged the troubles, couched the problem as an opportunity, went through a checklist of research about the situation, and generally assured anyone paying attention to this turbulence that those in charge of Ford Airport are in control.
The pilot has now put on the "no more bad airline puns" sign.
Some might have the instinct to make excuses or avoid comment. But addressing the situation is best. For one, the media will cover the airport because it is a government (Kent County) entity, and it is of considerable reader interest. Secondly, it's fundamental PR to communicate with all publics directly so there is no speculation and fear. Instead of feeling the airport has let us down, we learn that we are all in this situation together.
Speaking of that, MiBiz had an article this week (can't locate the link now) about the airport being the first impression people get of the West Michigan region. How true. And I was impressed that Ford International thinks of lots of details in that regard, from terminal design to making sure cabs are available. Any business in West Michigan that has clients or recruits come in from around the country should realize their vested stake in the success of the airport. Kudos to Schedlbauer and others for working with the local market in partnership.