Cape Town - AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes gave an unintentional lesson on Sunday as he took to Twitter to drive a crisis over a missing aeroplane.
The company reported that an Airbus 320-200 with 162 people on board went missing during a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.
The plane went missing after pilots asked to change course to avoid bad weather. Indonesian authorities called off the search as darkness fell on Sunday evening, but resumed at first light on Monday.
But unlike the usual practice by some companies to close ranks in the event of a disaster, Fernandes used the micro-blogging channel to reassure families that the carrier was focused on locating the plane.
"This is my worst nightmare. But there is no stopping," Fernandes said on his Twitter feed, which has nearly one million followers.
"I as your group CEO will be there through these hard times. We will go through this terrible ordeal together and I will try to see as many of you."
Those tweets were retweeted around 2 000 times as Fernandes followed up with commentary on the ongoing search and rescue operation.
AirAsia was also quick to replace its distinctive bright red logo on its social media pages with a grey background.
Check out his tweets:
My Allstars in Surabaya and red house in Jakarta have been amazing. Its at times like this you see the true quality of humans.— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) December 29, 2014
In Jakarta this morning to communicate with Search and Rescue. All assets now in region. Going back to Surabaya now to be with families.— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) December 29, 2014
Social media can be difficult for big brands at the best of times, but during a disaster, it can send stress levels soaring because of the social response to a crisis.
Mattel recently had to race to pull I Can Be A Computer Engineer from the Amazon online platform because of a social media storm that the book does nothing to portray women computer engineers positively.
In SA, a news organisation recently tripped over itself by posting content on social media that appears to confuse the revenue service with the Reserve Bank.
The tweet was deleted after Fin24 reported on it.
Fernandes, a British-trained accountant and former Warner Music executive, changed the image of an airline executive in the region by being seen wearing jeans and his trademark red AirAsia cap, reports Reuters.
With 475 aircraft ordered or delivered, AirAsia has emerged as the biggest Asian customer of Airbus.
The orders have been so large they have earned a footnote in the world's largest trade dispute between Airbus and Boeing over mutual accusations of illegal subsidies, according to Reuters.
- Fin24, Reuters