SAN FRANCISCO — Corporations around the country Tuesday dusted off and reassessed their guidelines for executives traveling together in the wake of the crash of PSA Flight 1771, which killed the president and three other managers of Chevron USA and three officials of Pacific Bell.
The policies, which typically prohibit groups of key officials from flying together on one plane, have become increasingly common among large companies in recent years. The plans are designed to ensure management continuity.
"A lot of companies have them. A lot of companies don't. And a lot of companies have them but don't follow them," said James Hawkins, director of the American Passenger Traffic Assn., whose membership includes more than 700 corporate travel managers.
Tuesday, in the wake of the PSA disaster, Chevron Chairman George R. Keller said the company has such a policy and that it had not been violated on Monday. "Having (Chevron USA President James R. Sylla) traveling with three of our senior public affairs executives is hardly unusual," he said at a press conference.
Keller said Chevron's policy would come into play if, for example, three or four senior production and exploration executives had to fly somewhere. "We would not be doing our job as management" if the people with such expertise were allowed to fly together, he said. "The risk of loss is real."
The crash wiped out three of Chevron's four public affairs managers in Southern California--Owen F. Murphy, Jocelyn G. Kempe and Allen F. Swanson--and would have killed them all had the fourth--Rod Spackman--not been delayed at his office.
A spokeswoman for Pacific Telesis Group, the parent of Pacific Bell, said the San Francisco-based company has no formal travel policy but that top officials are "discouraged" from flying on the same plane. She noted that the company maintains two corporate aircraft. Those killed on the PSA flight were middle-level managers: Yellow Pages managers Wayne Nelson and Tony Cordova from San Francisco, and Earl Webb, a Los Angeles marketing manager.
Atlantic Richfield spokesman Al Greenstein said the Los Angeles-based oil company does not have an executive travel policy, in part because it would be "difficult to enforce." He added, however, that "we will certainly take another look" as a result of Monday's crash.
Most other companies surveyed by The Times on Tuesday had formal or informal guidelines in place. For the most part, the policies affect only the most senior officials. Lower-level executives often travel together.
A number of companies established their policies in 1981, when Texasgulf Inc. lost six key executives when its corporate jet crashed at Westchester County Airport in New York. In other instances, travel guidelines are mandated by insurance companies "to prevent catastrophic losses," an insurance industry executive said.
At San Francisco-based Transamerica, "No more than two members of senior management are allowed to fly on the same plane," said Richard Olsen, vice president for corporate communications. "In certain departments, the No. 1 and No. 2 (executives) can't fly together."
Impossible to Monitor
BankAmerica has a detailed written policy prohibiting Chairman and Chief Executive A. W. Clausen from flying with more than one of the company's four vice chairmen. In addition, no more than six of the company's top 100 or so officers at or above the rank of senior vice president are allowed on the same plane.
General Motors, in contrast, lacks a written policy. But as a practical matter, "top staff in any one area or the top executives just do not fly on one plane," spokesman James Crellin said.
MCI, the communications concern, "strongly discourages" certain combinations of key executives from flying together, spokeswoman Fran Zone said.
Travel industry observers said they doubted that most policies were strictly enforced. "It is impossible to monitor," said Brad Burris, executive vice president Runzheimer International, which publishes statistics about the travel industry.
"But it has been our observation that most companies do not adhere to their travel policies very strictly, and that's particularly true for companies who have their own aircraft."
Times Researcher Norma Kaufman contributed to this story.