When airlines use paint as damage control

After incidents that leave wounded planes in public view, standard practice is to cover over logos and other identifying marks.

By Bruce Kennedy Sep 11, 2013 8:47AM

A plane takes off over a damaged Thai Airways Airbus A330-300 at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, on Monday (© Apichart Weerawong/AP)It could have been a lot worse at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on Sunday night, when a Thai Airways Airbus (EADSY) A330-300 skidded off the runway upon landing. Everyone survived the mishap, and only 13 minor injuries were reported.

Officials are still investigating the exact cause of the accident, and usually that story would fade away. But it's staying alive in the blogosphere because the company's name and logos on the damaged plane were painted over soon after the mishap.

A Thai Airways spokesperson told CNN that blacking out logos was part of its "crisis communication rule" and that "it is standard practice in the aviation industry to de-identify an aircraft which is visible to the public after a significant incident or accident."

Indeed, this is hardly the first time an airline has blacked out its logos and other identifying marks on a plane soon after an accident.

Just hours after an Alitalia turboprop plane veered off the runway at Rome's Leonard da Vinci airport earlier this year, injuring 16 people, nearly the entire plane was painted over, removing most company markings. Union officials said the airline was literally whitewashing the incident.

But an Alitala spokesman told Britain's Daily Telegraph the practice "is something that is done by airline companies in many countries and we are surprised that such a fuss is being made. It is a matter of brand protection."

In 2007, a China Airlines Boeing 737 caught fire and exploded on the tarmac at an airport in Okinawa, Japan. Miraculously, all 165 passengers and crew on board were safely evacuated from the burning plane. One day after the accident, Japanese officials gave permission to the Taiwan-based carrier to paint over the airline's name and logo on the jet's wreckage.

Getting a company's name and logo out of the public eye after a crisis is a classic part of public relations damage control. But that practice is harder for airlines -- especially when the hull of every plane in your fleet is conspicuously branded, and most passengers and airport visitors are carrying some form of social media technology.

An airline chief of communications, who spoke on condition of anonymity with The Wall Street Journal, noted that trying to cover up a carrier's logo no longer works in an age of smartphones -- and when the public expects more corporate transparency.

Logo masking "used to be standard practice to prevent damage to reputation, but the world's a different place now," he said, "and most crisis management people believe you'd be sending the wrong message to the public if you paint over."

More on moneyNOW

Sep 11, 2013 10:16AM
And more new-speak definitions. Aircraft now suffer injuries and wounds. Aircraft? Inanimate flying machines are now identified with words formerly used to describe 'damage' to life forms. An injury, like a broken leg and a wound, like a soldier receives in Afghanistan, are now applied to damage to metal. The bandages are paint. WHAT???? So I guess the plane crash in SF a few months ago should have stated the 'aircraft suffered fatal injuries when it was wounded missing the landing strip'. Any way they can to obfuscate responsibility, and one way is to change definitions of words, newspeak. Problem is, with the state of education in our fair land, most wont even notice, or understand the difference.
Sep 11, 2013 10:15AM
Guess that would be a little difficult with the COSTA CONCORDIA!
Sep 11, 2013 10:01AM
Nobody wants to be the stock photo for MSN when talking about a plane crash.
Sep 11, 2013 10:34AM

Yeah, would not want passengers to see a certain airline that crashed and connect that to perhaps that airline crashes more often and maybe take another airline.



Sep 11, 2013 10:33AM
What else are they covering up?  
Sep 11, 2013 11:11AM
So if I get in a car wreck and the other guy pulls his plate and runs off, he must work for the airlines.
Sep 11, 2013 11:09AM
It is corporate spin control at its best!  Today, people want transparency instead of cover up, companies are only postponing the inevitable!
Sep 11, 2013 11:06AM

it's only fitting that the plane in Rome was painted at an airport named after Leonardo da Vinci



Sep 11, 2013 10:39AM
too bad ford couldn't do that with the pinto and chevy with the corvair.
Sep 11, 2013 11:05AM
Paste an Asiana logo on every damaged plane.
Their reputation can't get much worse.

Sep 11, 2013 10:15AM
There's no story here.  This has been standard operating procedure for a long time---for reasonable purposes.
Sep 11, 2013 11:32AM

Someone needs to create a blog with nothing but pictures showing workers painting over company logos and identification!!


That will get millions of clicks!

Sep 11, 2013 11:28AM
Sep 11, 2013 12:22PM
They should ban paint, that will solve it.?  
Sep 11, 2013 11:21AM
Typical corporate behavior; nothing new here.
Sep 11, 2013 10:43AM
bruce k. is taking it on the chin today. he should have written something more intriguing, like 'what msn writers do when they have nothing to write about.'
Sep 11, 2013 11:07AM
This has ben done for years; Alaska Airlines did it when their jet crashed on landing, etc.
Sep 13, 2013 1:55AM

Delta 1141 at DFW in 1988, crash on takeoff, Pilot Error.  I noticed the DELTA logo disappear just days after the incident but well before the wreckage was removed.  That was the first time I had ever heard of such actions.  I thought it was silly.  It isn't like people aren't going to know who it is anyway.

However, I guess someone could be a little upset to look out of their ascending DELTA flight onto the wreckage of another DELTA aircraft down on the ground.

Sep 11, 2013 11:30AM
so what's the big deal ?...did.a rookie journalist write this article ?.. who never experienced anything outside of the classroom or in his cozy little box of  life and has just discovered something that has been an aviation SOP, since the dawn of aviation........, If who ever wrote this article was thinking that  their  some sort of investigative journalist and their is some sort of conspiracy going on ?????...., well they need to do much further research than making an assumption on a photo and then making up an article around it, that doesn't even use proper descriptions for damaged aircraft !!!....that's known as bovine manure for a paycheck...and editors that are just as naïve or bovine manure, too...... or it is just plain dumb people writing & editing this crap for our consumption...and to think of all the so called *over qualified* people out there looking for work, and the dunces involved in writing this article are employed...make me wonder what's going on these days ????? 
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