Cruise disaster fallout ... "Passengers, the plane is going to crash. No, wait."
It's only a matter of degree, but the fallout is coming.
The Costa Cruise ship tragedy off the coast of Italy last Friday will almost certainly take a major toll on the cruise industry, just as an airline strike hurts or a major air accident affects passenger volume.
Of course, the worst thing about the accident obviously is the loss of life. That goes without saying. But many lives could be affected in small, unforeseen ways as this tragedy continues to unfold.
In a story in USA Today, cruise expert Gene Sloan says travel agents and industry watchers expect at least a short-term slump.
"With the tragedy still fresh, it is difficult to know what the impact on future bookings may be," said UBS analyst Robin Farley. "There are not many examples of incidents comparable to this."
Thankfully, that's true.
Sloan makes a number of good points in his story. In one section, he quotes the editor of Cruise Week, Mike Driscoll, as saying that first-hand accounts of crew members acting "poorly or even irresponsibly during the event (is) not the sort of image that builds confidence among consumers."
Nor is the notion of a captain so willing to flaunt the orders that every school kid in the world understands - the idea of the guy in charge sticking with his ship.
Tim Conder, an analyst at Wells Fargo, points out that the accident comes at an important time for cruise ship bookings.
Any downtown in bookings could result in some serious damage to companies' bottom lines. Not to be macabre about it, but it likely will mean deals for anyone willing to put the Costa accident out of their minds. Obviously, every captain and every ship crew around the world will be on super high alert in the coming weeks, making a cruise probably safer today than last week - by a long shot.
Sloan points out that Carnival, which owns the Costa Cruise line, reacted well when the Carnival Splendor had a fire on board in 2010, leaving the ship adrift.
Driscoll told USA Today that in the case of the Splendor, passengers getting off the ship were thanking Carnival for the way they handled the incident. I saw a report this morning, however, that said the head of Carnival hasn't set foot in Italy since the Costa accident, which makes it sound like the George W. Bush approach that worked so well after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.
Yeah, just pretend it's not your issue and it'll all just go away. Good call, guys.
WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE ... NO, WAIT....
Unbelievable. Last Friday, the same day as the Costa Cruise accident, it seems a British Airways flight was over the Atlantic Ocean about 3 a.m. Suddenly, an announcement came blaring over the public address system, warning passengers the flight was about to crash into the sea.
Of course, panic ensued.
Just as suddenly as the first announcement, however, came another one.
"Pay no attention to that previous announcement - everything's great."
The flight, British Airways 206, was en route from Miami to London Heathrow. A BA spokesperson apologized (no kidding) for the mistake.
"The cabin crew cancelled the announcement immediately and sought to reassure customers that the flight was operating normally. We apologize to customers for causing them undue concern."
Apology? That's it? I can't believe they didn't give everyone a free ticket for whatever British Airways flight they wanted. Or, better yet, KLM or Air France or someplace where they don't emply dolts who push the wrong button.
And raise your hand if you knew there was a bright red "Tell people we're all going to die" button on an airplane? I sure as hell didn't. But it makes sense, I guess. I saw one report today quoting a BA official as saying they use a pre-recorded message as cabin crew need to do other things in a real emergency.
Still, it seems this happened on ANOTHER British Airways flight in August of 2010, this one a trip from London to Hong Kong. Maybe it's time for a little on-the-job training, folks.