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Thai Airways blacks out logos after accident

By Simon Busch and Chuck Thompson, CNN
September 10, 2013 -- Updated 0147 GMT (0947 HKT)
Thai Airways followed its policy of
Thai Airways followed its policy of "de-identifying" a plane after an accident to protect the airline's reputation.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • After accident in Bangkok, Thai Airways painted over logos on its aircraft
  • Thai Airways said obscuring logos was a recommendation from Star Alliance
  • Star Alliance denied the airline's claim
  • Media attention suggests the action achieved opposite of desired effect

(CNN) -- A Thai Airways plane that skidded off the runway while landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on Sunday night had its logos blacked out by workers after the accident.

More: Thai Airways plane skids off runway, 13 injured

After touching down in Bangkok at 11:20 p.m., the Airbus A330-300 aircraft, which departed from Guangzhou, China, suffered a landing gear malfunction that caused it to slide off the runway, according to the airline.

No passengers were reported injured during the actual landing, although 13 received minor injuries during the evacuation and were taken to hospital, the airline said.

After the accident, workers on a crane painted over the Thai Airways logo on the tail and body of the aircraft in black.

The Airbus A330-300 before the post-accident makeover -- logos intact.
The Airbus A330-300 before the post-accident makeover -- logos intact.

Known as the "crisis communication rule," the practice of obscuring logos was a recommendation from Star Alliance -- of which Thai Airways is a member -- to protect the airline's image, an airline official initially said.

However, Star Alliance denied the claims.

"The Star Alliance crisis communications policy does not state that logos are to covered," in the event of an accident, a spokesman for the airline group, Markus Ruediger, told CNN.

Thai Airways later issued a statement "clarifying" its policy.

"Though Thai generally practices the de-identifying of an aircraft after an incident ... the company also clarifies that this is not a Star Alliance policy."

Established in 1997, Star Alliance is a global airline network with 28 member airlines.

"Standard practice" draws criticism

Judging from the attention -- even derision -- Thai Airway's actions have attracted in this case, the effort to protect the airline's image seems to have had the opposite of its intended effect.

Attention on Twitter quickly focused as much on the obscuring of the logos as on the accident itself.

One tweet questioned whether this was the "Most bizarre piece of corporate spin ever?"

"Cover up that tail," another post joked.

Landing gear malfunction

Thai Airways was investigating the cause of the accident on Sunday night, the airline said.

"After touchdown at Suvarnabhumi Airport, the landing gear malfunctioned and caused the aircraft to skid off the runway," said president of Thai Airways, Sorajak Kasemsuvan, in a statement on the company's website.

"Sparks were noticed from the vicinity of the right landing gear near the engine; the matter is under investigation."

No logo ... Thai Airway\'s attempts at anonymity appear instead to have garnered it worldwide media attention.
No logo ... Thai Airway's attempts at anonymity appear instead to have garnered it worldwide media attention.

Airbus said it is awaiting further information on the event before it can comment.

"We are dispatching a team of experts to support both the investigation authorities and Thai Airways," the company told CNN.

Second incident in fortnight

The incident is the second in two weeks for Thai Airways.

At least 39 passengers were injured after an Airbus A380 with 500 passengers from Bangkok hit severe turbulence during its approach into Hong Kong International Airport on August 30.

Thai Airways International has established a hotline for information about the accident in Bangkok. The number inside Thailand is 02 545 3181. From outside the country, the number is +66 2 545 3181.

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