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Delta Airlines' Dog-Gone Disaster and CEO's 'PR tailspin' on Mid-east airlines merit sharing


It's coming to be known as Delta's Dog-Gone Disaster. It's the tale of the plight of the distraught family whose dog was lost on a Delta Airlines flight out of Los Angeles last fall, and the more than 200,000-plus supporters who have petitioned Delta via the website
change.org to take responsibility in some manner.


It's a story that suggests Delta CEO Dick Anderson may need to spend more time keeping his eye on his own company rather than eyeing someone else's airline, as in his acknowledged coveting of Seattle's hometown airline, Alaska.

Apparently it's not a unique case of doggie disasters at the world's second largest airline, an airline that may have grown too large for the CEO to be personally bothered by such things as worrying about a lost family member of customers (since a family member is how a pet is viewed by most owners). One blogger has even referred to Delta as "The Bermuda Triangle of Dog Travel."

Not flying on Delta would be a logical response for pet owners as a statement for the airline to step up, take responsibility, and figure out how to improve its pet-care performance. And every dog lover should insist on an apology, and not from some underling but from CEO Anderson himself.

I checked on change.org, which I hadn't been aware of, to ensure the site is legitimate and here's what I learned:
Created in 2007 by a then-32 year old NYU law school dropout named Ben Rattray, change.orghas become one of the largest sites on the web for anyone seeking to pressure politicians, corporations or others with what the web company describes as "a public shame campaign." It's a certified B Corporation with a stated mission to "empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see." 


Rattray says that "with cynicism about government at an all-time high," he can keep growing by keeping the stories personal. The petitions that catch fire on

Change.org are almost always tied to human drama, and so it is with Frank Romano and his family, whose dog, Ty, disappeared on the Delta flight from Los Angeles to Tampa, where the family was moving. 


Here is a bit of the story of Ty's disappearance, from the

change.org website, as written by the family. 


"Ty had been checked by our vet and transported in an airline approved-crate. Delta confirmed everything was in order prior to assuming responsibility for Ty. When we said our goodbyes to Ty, his tail wagging, we never imagined it would be for the last time.

"Prior to takeoff, a Delta employee approached Frank and took him aside to tell him that Delta couldn't find Ty. Our son was confused and horrified listening to Delta's story.


One minute Delta had the dog, and the next he was gone. They claimed there were no witnesses. Eventually Delta would state Ty had 'compromised the kennel on his own.'  


"When we got the crate back there were no bite marks, scratches, or other damage inside that would corroborate Delta's story. All we found was a crack on the outside of the kennel that wasn't there when Delta checked Ty into their custody.  


"After Delta lost a member of our family all we asked for was help searching for Ty. Delta denied our requests in helping provide resources for the search effort. Instead, we had to rely on many kind-hearted volunteers who spent weeks searching, putting up posters, and talking to people in the area," the family wrote.

More than 211,000 people, and counting, have signed the petition for the Romano family's plea: "Please join us in calling on Delta to release their official report, apologize to our family, and put in place a plan to prevent future pets from being lost. Please sign and share our petition today."


Others who do blogs and have pets, are tuning in to Delta's doggie dilemma, including by friend Al Davis, a widely respected turnaround expert, who does a blog on various business issues.

He is planning a blog offering Delta some advice on customer service and corporate culture, something the onetime Intel general manager knows a thing or two about, on which Delta apparently could use some guidance.

Meanwhile, I can find nothing to indicate that Anderson has offered the distraught family any sort of apology himself. But that reluctance apparently would fit with Anderson's pattern.

And since a key reason for this column is to give readers a sense of the kind of leader the guy is who would like to turn his airline into Seattle's "hometown airline," and a bit about the character of the airline he guides, another, perhaps more dramatic, example of Anderson's unwillingness to take responsibility is the recent gaffe related the Middle East.

That example of his apparent "I don't personally apologize" approach came after his recent statements, what CNN described as a "clumsy comment" that was more like a mix of ignorance and arrogance, in which he seemed to link Gulf-based air carriers with the 9/11 terrorist attack. The apology for what CNN described as a Delta "PR tailspin," came not from Anderson himself but from "a Delta spokesperson."

Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar airlines, offered perhaps the most appropriate put down for Anderson over the comments he made, which were in connection with his effort to kill the Ex-Im Bank that is so important to Boeing. For those not familiar with it, the Export-Import Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States with the mission of ensuring that U.S. Companies have access to the financing they need to turn export opportunities into sales, as in sales to Middle East airlines.

Al Baker said on CNN that the Delta chief "should be ashamed to bring up the issue of terrorism to try to cover his inefficiency in running an airline. Mr. Anderson should be doing his job improving and competing with us instead of just crying wolf for his shortcomings in the way his airline is run."

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