Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management

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Volume 1 Issue 3 (September 1993), Pages 125-182

From Disaster to Crisis: The Failed Turnaround of Pan American Airlines (pages 138-151)

The academic and corporate analysis of crisis management achieved considerable impetus during the latter part of the 1980s with the occurrence of a number of major incidents which captured media attention. The terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988 was one of the largest loss‐of‐life transport incidents of the decade and had serious implications for the integrity of the corporation. The bombing, whilst a discrete crisis event in itself, was part of a longer history of crisis through which the company had passed. The purpose of this paper is to explore the managerial response to crisis events within Pan Am and offer an assessment of the factors that ultimately led to the collapse of the corporation in 1991. Throughout the paper, attempts will also be made to set the events within the context of current thinking in crisis management and, in particular, to examine the demise of Pan Am within the context of a number of models of turnaround management developed within the literature.

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