ABC Sensationalizes Qantas Incident

     Leave it to the media over-dramatize an incident that was scary enough already.


     That’s just what ABC’s David Muir did in a July 25 “Good Morning America” report on the Qantas flight that made an emergency landing in Manila, Philippines, due to a hole in the plane’s fuselage.


     Muir reported that the plane “instantly plummeted” some 20,000 feet after passengers heard a loud explosion, asserting that flyers “had no idea what was happening.”


    But the plane didn’t “instantly plummet.” The pilot brought the plane down from a higher altitude to help stabilize air pressure, according to eyewitness reports in the BBC other media.


    After the plane landed, passengers applauded the crew and pilot for their handling of the emergency. “No one panicked, there was no screaming,” passenger Phill Restall told the BBC. “It wasn’t your typical television movie. Everyone listened to the cabin staff.”


     Brendan McClements, another passenger, told The Times (of London) a similar story. “The crew were terrific, they were really good, they kept everyone calm and told people what to do and helped people with their masks and things. Their reactions had a very calm effect on the other passengers.”


     That’s hardly the scene of chaos and confusion portrayed by Muir’s report.


     ABC even aired cell phone video from the plane, which Muir described as “dramatic.” But the video, aside from shaky and grainy cell phone camera images, showed passengers seated with oxygen masks on and a flight attendant walking down the aisle making sure passengers were okay. One woman can be seen with a full plate of food on her seatback tray table.


     Media coverage of airline problems tends to sensationalize the issue, and often fails to report the fact that airline travel is very safe. Qantas has one of the best safety records in all of commercial aviation – 87 years with no fatalities. In 2007, the U.S. industry saw zero commercial airline fatalities. NBC was the only broadcast network to report the impressive number.


     Instead, airlines are attacked in the media as unsafe. “We should all be concerned that the airlines, with all the pressures they face for profitability and the cost of fuel, might be tempted to cut corners on maintenance,” Miles O’Brien suggested on CNN’s “American Morning” March 27, 2008.