Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Reed College of Media


Reed College of Media

Committee Chair

Julia Fraustino

Committee Co-Chair

Steve Urbanski

Committee Member

Jennifer Harker

Committee Member

Katie Kang


This research proposes a qualitative case study of American Airlines’ communication during the first month of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Data from the airline’s press releases along with its tweets and a sample of organizational responses to those tweets are offered for proposed analysis using the lenses of Situational Crisis Communication Theory, the Applied Model of Care Considerations, and the body of crisis literature on audience coping and emotions during crises. This in-depth look at a unique communication phenomenon will be a fundamental step in examining how airline communication exhibits ethics or lack thereof and is related to people’s emotions and their ability to cope. This research is valuable because there is relatively minimal crisis communication research from a public relations standpoint concerning emotion and ethics, as well as a need for more robust airline crisis communication research. This is timely and relevant research because the COVID-19 global pandemic remains ongoing and disruptive to lives and livelihoods nationally and globally. This work will be grounded in crisis communication, public relations, and ethics research. Topics such as crisis and crisis management will be addressed. Importantly, this research will use the theoretical lens of the Applied Model of Care Considerations and Situational Crisis Communication Theory. To investigate how, if at all, American Airlines ethically communicated to their publics with visible attention to emotional health and wellbeing, this work will use Robert Yin’s (2018) social science qualitative case study approach.