How Qantas REALLY used social media during the aircraft grounding

NB: This is a guest article by Shubhodeep Pal, senior innovation officer at airline and airport strategy firm SimpliFlying.

What a year this is turning out to be for Qantas. In June, the Chilean ashcloud crisis affected many of their flights for an extended period.

Then almost out of the blue, disaster (at least for passengers and from a PR perspective) struck when, on October 29, following instructions from CEO Alan Joyce, Qantas announced that it was grounding all flights indefinitely, with employees not required to report to work.

Understandably, and almost immediately, the internet exploded. While passengers vented their dismay and fury, it’s notable that most employees were even taken unaware, led to perhaps an initially wary and “slow” response from Qantas as customer inquiries flooded the official Twitter account.

Tweets mentioning Qantas shot up. Very soon, “Qantas” and “Alan Joyce” were trending worldwide, indicating tweets containing the keywords were in excess of 1,000 per minute.

As the initial response from Qantas was decried as being too “mechanical and impersonal”, Virgin seized the opportunity to jump in and offer to rescue stranded Qantas passengers. But as more information came in, Qantas was able to implement a more concerted response in social media and help customers.

Hardly had the airline managed to start rolling out its service recovery efforts when another blow was struck. Exactly a year to the date (November 4) of last year’s A380 engine scare over Singapore, a different Qantas A380 heading to London from Singapore experienced an engine failure in mid-air and had to be diverted to Dubai.

If the timing of the failure coupled with the previous few days’ wretched PR weren’t enough, this particular flight happened to have Stephen Fry, the famous writer, actor and comedian on board. Fry is also one of the most popular Twitter celebs with a following of around 3.5 million (compared to @QantasAirways with 66,000 followers.)

What followed – flight diverted, extended delay, alternate flights heavily booked, hotels full andFry left his wallet on the plane – had all the ingredients for another PR disaster for Qantas.

But has Qantas ultimately fared? Check out the deck to see a detailed analysis of how the crisis unfolded, how Qantas responded and what it eventually did to enable service recovery, covering both the industrial dispute and the engine failure a few days later...

NB: This is a guest article by Shubhodeep Pal, senior innovation officer at airline and airport strategy firm SimpliFlying.

NB2: See Alex Kremer’s post – Social media gurus should give Qantas a break.

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A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are the views and opinions of the author and do not reflect or represent the views of his employer, tnooz, its writers, or partners.

 

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