On February 2, 1998, Lance Gokongwei, the 31-year old chief executive officer of Cebu Pacific Air (Cebu), learned that Flight 5J-387 from Manila to Cagayan de Oro failed to arrive at its destination on schedule and was believed to be missing. The airline was barely three years old and just beginning to gain significant market presence in the Philippine domestic airline industry. The (A) case describes the information Gokongwei had at the time. The subsequent cases (labeled (B), (C), and (D), UVA-OB-0768, UVA-0B-0679, and UVA-OB680, respectively) describe the events that followed the tragic demise of Flight 5J-387. Cebu Pacific’s transparency with the media, full cooperation with the government inquiry, assistance to victims’ families at a personal level, and readiness to face up to its obligations gained the sympathy and trust of the public. At one point the government grounded the airline, citing safety concerns. Statements were published in national newspapers that expressed confidence in the airworthiness of Cebu Pacific, and disapproval for the airline’s suspension. More importantly, the CEO, Lance Gokongwei, received encouragement and support from his employees through their volunteer efforts during the disaster and letters of support, while hundreds took unpaid leaves. This case provides an international dimension to the study of leadership. The material presents an opportunity to challenge students to consider leadership issues and present recommendations within the context of a cultural and economic environment different from the United States.
Darden Business Publishing – University of Virginia