Saturday Night Live Alaska skit adds new layer to reputational damage for Boeing

Boeing isn’t mentioned by name at all in the Alaska Airlines parody ad that appeared on Saturday Night Live, the long-running U.S. variety show. The absence of serious physical injuries sustained by those aboard opens the door for these comedic takes that shape popular culture and brand perception. (SNL gave Southwest a similar skewering after its operational meltdown in December 2022) Yet, from an industry perspective it’s catastrophic for Boeing and its reputation with the groups it needs most. One key, and oft-repeated, reaction: “Ok. The regular person in me knows that this objectively funny,” said one U.S. airline staffer. “But the airline employee in me is full of rage at Boeing.” In short, Boeing’s customers are taking the brunt of a storm of its own creation.

Twice a year, your correspondent is one of four instructors at the University of Southern California in the engineering school’s Aviation Safety & Security program that presents a four and a half day class on Accident/Incident Response Preparedness. The class focuses on the procedural aspects of an investigation, its legal implications, family assistance and media response. All are aimed at developing comprehensive preparedness plans. The 737 Max grounding has been a central case study in the media unit since March 2019, when the aircraft was grounded globally after the twin crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia. The class is being run again during the week of February 5. This clip is the latest sedimentary layer of the Max saga and joins the increasingly voluminous case study.

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