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May 22
2017 年 5 月 22 日

危機處理不善的代價

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2011年3月11日,日本地震引發海嘯,波及福島核電廠,反應爐溫度達到攝氏一千多度,需要循環水冷卻核反應爐。有一個辦法可以解決這個問題,就是緊急調入設備,抽取海水供冷卻迴圈。但是東電不肯這樣做,因為一座核電廠的成本大約為一百億美元,海水一澆,一百億就泡湯了。為利所蔽,未能及時處理,導致反應器過熱,後果嚴重不可收拾,處理事故的花費以及因事故而造成的後續反應要多付出千百個「100億美金」的代價。等到認識因"大"而失"鉅大"的時候,木已成舟,後悔未及。

近年來,航空公司尋求賺錢的花招,美國國內航班額外座位空間要付錢、提前確定座位要付錢、機上餐飲要付錢、托運行李要付錢等等,類似的不愉快例子愈來愈多。但是,這些與2017年4月9日發生的美國聯合航空公司(聯航)「暴力拒載」事件相比,簡直是小巫見大巫了。事件當晚,準備由芝加哥飛出的航班,在乘客上機就位後,有4名聯航雇員姍姍來遲地到登機口,要求已登機的乘客讓出座位。當乘客不願讓座時,機組人員竟然叫來機場保安強力架走乘客,導致一位越南裔的乘客當場掉落門牙、受傷流血。

航空公司超售機票已成常態。航空公司要求乘客讓位,通常的做法是出價以換取乘客放棄機位。出價由200美金開始往上調,重賞之下必有勇夫,在換得現金的誘惑下,總是有人同意放棄機位。可是,據報載,聯航出價到800美金後就停止上調,為求空位居然粗魯出手把乘客拖走。如果肯繼續出價,終究會有人讓位。聯航服務惡劣,花錢小器,損失商譽,引發眾怒,事後必須靠天價妥協,欲哭無淚,得不償失。

東電面對核反應爐過熱處理不善與聯航省小錢以暴力趕乘客都得付出昂貴的代價。


The high cost of inadequate crisis management

A quick and adequate response was needed when the temperature of the damaged nuclear reactors inside the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant reached over 1,000°C following the tsunami in Japan on 11 March 2011. Water was needed to cool down the reactors and as a last resort, one option remained open: shipping in equipment and pumping in seawater. But Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which operates Daiichi, refused to take this option. A nuclear power plant is worth approximately US$10 billion and the use of seawater would have totally destroyed it. Blinded by concerns about potential financial losses, Tepco hesitated, resulting in the overheating of the reactor and uncontrollable consequences. The cost of handling the accident and the accident-induced follow-up actions has amounted to billions of US dollars. By the time Tepco officials realized the true cost of their decisions, it was too late.

In recent years, the airline industry has devised ideas to maximize profits, for example, by charging passengers for extra legroom, reserving seats in advance, charging for inflight food, checking luggage on domestic flights as well as other services once included in a basic ticket price. These new ideas have led to some unpleasant experiences for passengers, but they pale in comparison to United Airlines' "violent removal" incident on 9 April 2017. That night, four UA crew memebers arrived at the boarding gate after all the passengers had been seated for a flight leaving from Chicago. Four seated passengers were asked to leave the flight to make room for the UA employees. When one passenger, Vietnamese by birth, refused to comply with the request, the crew summoned airport security to drag the passenger off the plane. The ethic Vietnamese passgenger lost two front teeth in the struggle and was blooded from his injuries.

Airline overbooking is becoming the norm. The usual practice is for airlines to offer a reward to passengers who have to forfeit their seats, starting from US$200 and going up. The hope is that passengers will agree to relinquish their seats with the lure of cash or a voucher. In the recent United Airlines case, it was reported that United went as high as US$800 but no further. In order to get the seat, officials chose to haul the passenger off the plane rather than offer further incentives. The poor service and miserliness have damaged United's corporate image. In the end, the airline had to pay a hefty price to appease the passenger, which was a far worse and regrettable consequence.

Both Tepco and United have suffered at their own hands for inadequately handling crisis situations, in both cases by failing to take a careful look at the overall financial picture.

 

22 May, 2017

 

 

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