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Posts Tagged ‘Airlines’

Delta Airlines: Now Boarding ‘H8GAYS’

H8GAYS-Delta-boarding-pass

Welcome to Crisis Communications 101, class. I’m your professor, Dr. SPW.

In today’s forum, we will explore the constant downward spiral known as the airline industry. You see, since the horrific tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, all airlines were confronted with insurmountable obstacles to keep flying. There was national fear, distrust and avoidance of flight. Some flied for bankruptcy protection. Others went belly up completely. This brings us to Delta Airlines, which used to embody the endearing acronym “Don’t Even Leave The Airport.”

And now, that vitriol has come back, reared its ugly and may scratch its damn eyes out. Why? The real-not-photoshopped-amazing-to-hard-to-believe-that-was-coincidental-boarding-pass above is a good hint.

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Was This the First Time a Customer Purchased a Tweet to Call Out a Brand?

Looks like we already have this week’s biggest PR fail: a traveler was so upset about British Airways losing his luggage that he paid to promote a tweet to all the brand’s followers letting them know how unpleasant his experience had been.

“Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.”

This is an unprecedented story, so it quickly spread across the web via Mashable and inspired CNN to interview disgruntled customer Hasan Syed, who started getting attention several hours before BA’s customer service reps even responded.

Pretty much every media outlet around has already run this story today because it is amazing, but we have to ask: will it change the way customer service works on social?

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United Airlines to Offer $9 ‘Premier Access’ Line at Security

The public has had a love/hate relationship with air travel for decades now. We love the excitement of going somewhere new or visiting people we love, but we hate having our flights cancelled, being frisked in our socks by strangers, getting hit with hidden fees and waiting in line for the infamous full body scanner.

Yet most of us accept these inconveniences as part of the reality of flying. You can’t blame an airline for the weather. Hurricanes happen. So does snow. Most airline passengers sense that we’re all going through this crazy experience together. But at United Airlines, $9 is about to change that dynamic. That is how much United is charging for “Premier Access” to fast-track security lines that offer customers reduced hassle and shorter waits.

How will the public react? This is a tough one. Sure, the airline industry has always offered special treatment to business flyers and the high rollers in first class–but this new “Premier Access” stunt has yet to pass the public’s sniff test. Read more

A PR Save for Boeing?

And now for an update on what is simultaneously one of the most important and least interesting PR debacles of the year to date: the Boeing Dreamliner controversy. Earlier in the week Japan’s Transport Ministry appeared to give the company an “out” by blaming the new 787′s various technical problems (overheating, smoking engines, flickering lights, emergency landings, yadda yadda) on a “miswired” battery.

Excuse us for being skeptical, but that’s just too easy.

Boeing seems to agree: today officials went to Washington to propose changes in the battery to the Federal Aviation Administration in the interest of creating a more fire-resistant aircraft. Any changes would be subject to FAA approval and the company’s technicians would first have to demonstrate that these changes “ensure safety.”

We can’t see that happening anytime soon, so the Dreamliner will remain a massive liability for Boeing and, arguably, the airline industry in general. It’s all bad news for Boeing and its investors–but does the public really care?

Airline Industry to Public: We Don’t Like You, Either!

As PR professionals, we constantly preach about the importance of self-awareness. Brands, companies and people must always be privy to what the public is thinking and feeling. Being tone deaf–or even conveying the perception of being tone deaf–to public sentiment can be PR suicide.

But what about the public’s own collective self-awareness? History has proven that the public is capable of some pretty grisly acts, and those horrible transgressions typically occur when the public is the least self-aware. So let’s take a deep breath and do a little soul searching.

In the PR realm, we’ve addressed, for example, the public’s role in the mistreatment of Kate Middleton and the invasion of her privacy. And now, thanks to a book titled Tales from the Tarmac and written by 16-year airline industry veteran Claudia Helena Oxee, we can once again look into the mirror. The reflection isn’t pretty–Ms. Oxee’s perception of us is both unfiltered and unforgiving.

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Man Sues Airlines for Obese Wife’s Death

KLM AirlinesIn a tale of tragedy and PR disaster that almost certainly could have been avoided, a grieving Bronx husband just announced plans to sue Delta, KLM and Lufthansa airlines for millions.

Earlier this year, the three carriers each claimed to be unable to provide seating to his wife Vilma, who died in Europe while awaiting a return flight to New York. The couple planned to go home to the States after a European vacation so Vilma could resume treatment for diabetes and kidney disease; she weighed approximately 425 pounds at the time of her death.

The couple flew to their native Hungary via Delta and KLM “without incident” in September after Vilma apparently boarded two planes “with the help of an airlift…and a seatbelt extender”. Husband Janos now claims that airline reps in Europe “asked about return flights so [they] could make proper arrangements” and that he purchased two separate seats on the way back to accommodate his wife.

And yet, the couple’s lawyer says that the very same KLM Airlines forced the pair to de-plane in Budapest “due to an issue with a seat back” and urged them to drive to Prague, where a second pilot ordered Vilma from his plane after “they put her on the seat and they couldn’t belt her in”. The two then drove to Frankfurt only to be denied service by Lufthansa reps, who voiced concerns over passenger safety when Vilma “didn’t fit in a three-seat gap”; she died of kidney failure in Hungary two days later.

A Delta rep told ABC News that the airline simply couldn’t seat Vilma “Despite a determined good-faith effort”; the husband’s attorney claims that his client “wants to know why his wife had to die because the airlines simply didn’t want to be inconvenienced.”

We’re not sure the story is so simple.

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Your Online Activity May Make You An Airline VIP

Scene from "United Breaks Guitars," a YouTube video created by a disgruntled United passenger. The video has gotten more than 9.4 million views.

It may seem like airlines don’t care one bit whether travelers suffer through delays, cramped seats, and overpriced, nearly inedible in-flight meals. Perhaps they don’t. But they do care when you complain about it on Twitter.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there have been a number of cases on different airlines where a call to complain gets no results, but a tweet yields the requested frequent flier points, cheap airfare, and other resolutions.

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