From Panicked Passenger to Media Master

Screenshot 2023 08 17 At 3.40.12 Pm

With all the awful -and infinitely more important- news from Maui and the headlines from the political/legal world, you may have missed a pair of videos featuring a woman named Tiffany Gomas. One of them shows her having a scary and bizarre meltdown aboard a crowded airplane, and the other shows her apologizing.

Both videos are click-worthy, but in an era when bad behavior is routinely caught on video, only the apology clip is remarkable.

Grace under turbulence

Gomas apparently has a marketing background, so she knows something about public perception. Does that mean the video was just a polished crisis campaign disguised as heartfelt regret? Maybe, but Gomas certainly appeared authentic, and that’s often good enough during a PR crisis. Her expressions of humility and self-deprecation were a welcome departure from generic “apologies” featuring lines like “I’m sorry if I offended anybody” and “I need to take some time to think about my actions.”

Keeping the blame all for herself

One of the best things about Gomas’ apology is what it omitted: excuses.

There were no references to tiny crowded airplane seats, recent trauma in her life, or other passengers provoking her. An unequivocal acceptance of responsibility tends to deprive critics and trolls of oxygen.

Sorry, sometimes it isn’t enough

Don’t feel like an outlier if the mea culpa wasn’t enough for you. The scene on the plane was ugly and disturbing, particularly for fellow passengers. Crisis apologies are more like fire extinguishers than escape slides; they may keep the damage from spreading, but they can’t always save you.

Mark Bernheimer

Mark Bernheimer is a former CNN correspondent and the founder of MediaWorks Resource Group, an internationally renowned media training and consulting firm.