Today Show Bends Northwest Over, Then Bends Over for Continental

Continental, Northwest

Not sure how many people have seen the latest series on the Today Show called “Today’s Travel Turbulence in the Skies,” but it’s been interesting. They’re inviting a series of airline CEOs to come on and talk about what’s going on. Unfortunately, they aren’t really playing fair.

07_08_24 steenlandtodayFirst up (that I saw) was an interview with Doug Steenland, CEO of Northwest. The first part was with Meredith Viera and the second part involved answering viewer questions with Natalie Morales.

This was no easy interview. Meredith asked questions like “What went wrong and why couldn’t you predict it?” and “Why should I trust that won’t just happen again?” Steenland did ok with the answers, but he just does not come off well on tv. Too stiff.

The second part was even less successful for him. He faced some pretty tough questions like “Why can’t this management admit that they made errors and stop blaming the short staffing, poor employee morale, flight cancellations, and operational problems on the employees, especially pilots?” Ouch.

07_08_24 kellnertodaySo yesterday morning, when Matt Lauer interviewed Continental CEO Larry Kellner, I was expecting sparks to fly.

Would he mention the flight that kept passengers stranded in Baltimore for hours and hours that made Joe Sharkey’s column in the New York Times? Or would he ask about the transatlantic flight with overflowing sewage?

Nope, none of that. Just pure praise and nothing of substance. What a joke. Now, I think Steenland deserved the hard questions, but there’s no reason Kellner should have gotten off so easy. I mean, Matt even said “This is a tough interview for me to do,” rattled off a bunch of great things about Continental, and then followed up with “This is going to be so boring this morning.” As if that wasn’t enough, he then gave Kellner carte blanche to brag. . . . “Without doing a commercial for your airline, why have you been able to buck the trend in the industry and kind of separate yourself from the bulk of other airlines.”

Not cool.

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5 comments on “Today Show Bends Northwest Over, Then Bends Over for Continental

  1. This is just a hunch: I imagine that NBC Universal employees are frequent flyers on Continental, particularly given the the network’s CNBC and MSNBC operations in New Jersey. If I’m right, you can rest assured that Lauer always flys first class on Continental and is treated to kid glove treatment. I’d go easy on Kellner too if he offered me Tiffany service.

    As for Steenland, Northwest is such a horribly bad airline he deserves to be slammed. I’m at a loss as to why Northwest’s PR people would allow him to do the interview. In addition to his stiff demeanor, there is nothing positive to say about his company.

  2. Even with CO’s two recent blunders, in the grand scheme of things, CO is still miles ahead of all the other US major airlines in terms of just about all the core attributes: financial stability, labor relations stability and outstanding customer service. Meanwhile, NWA is probably the best example of the worst in all of those capacities — it’s no surprise to me that the interviews went as they did. Granted, Matt Lauer COULD have pressed Larry K about those two recent events… but doing so would have been irresponsible journalism. If you look at their overall record, those recent events hardly constitute a ‘pattern’.

  3. I hardly call that “irresponsible journalism.” These are very high profile events that certainly deserve to have an explanation about what happened and why they won’t happen again. I find it irresponsible to completely gloss over any negatives and just have several minutes of gushing praise.

    There’s nothing wrong with also praising the airline. Yes, they have done better than others recently. But you also have to remember that one of the reasons they didn’t file bankruptcy this time around is because they’ve done it twice before.

  4. To clarify, CF, the “irresponsible journalism” to which I referred would be to use a few, horrendous events out of an impressive record to nullify that impressive record in the court of public opinion… relative to a competitor (NWA), which is lucky to have a few GOOD events among an abysmal record.

    If you watched TV News at all during CO’s latest fiascoes, you’ll agree that CO hardly got away without their share of negative press. But, it’s old news. And… morning show interviews, such as those on “TODAY”, generally focus on trends (a.k.a ‘news magazines’).

  5. Airlines have gotten there fair share of bashing…and rightfully so. CO is still the leader in customer satisfaction among the network carriers and should be praised for it. We can all be witch hunters and burn them all, but we are a nation that will bitch and moan and complain even on a perfectly awesome day. Lets look at the real problem. Why are we the one of the richest nations in the world but still operate one of the oldest air traffic control systems. Stop bitching people…write your congresmen/women…tell them stop sending our billions to Iraq…we need it here!

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