Airlines haven't had a good time of it recently. In the last few months, United Airlines and Delta have been at the centre of public relations scandals that took poor customer service to the extreme. In May, it was British Airways' (BA) turn for a communication disaster. Their power outage saw 75,000 passengers negatively affected as flights were cancelled and many customers were left without luggage. So, what can we learn from this new communication disaster?
Don't skimp on your PR department
BA announced in February that it was cutting back on its PR department, resulting in a number of redundancies. Meanwhile two employees who had been with the airline for around ten years, Michael Johnson and Sophia Procter, recently handed in their notice, according to PR Week. It's therefore perhaps not surprising that BA was slow to deal with the computer failure. It took over seven hours for the first video apology to be released.
Video apologies can be very effective – when done properly, they will make your company seem much more personable. They do have to be sincere however and BA's just wasn't. It featured the CEO Alex Cruz in a high-vis jacket (despite being in an office) telling customers not to go to the airport. However, he committed a big no-no in the corporate apology world: he never gave a proper explanation for the failure, and generally didn't clear very much up.
Skimping on your PR department simply isn't worth it – the four per cent drop in share values in BA's parent company, IAG, following the initial power outage (as reported by the Guardian) shows this.
Don't ignore a brand in decline
Proactive not reactive communication strategy is the key here.
BA used to be the quality alternative to the wide array of budget airlines that operate across Europe. However, recent years have seen a string of communication and customer service issues which have caused BA to be held in much lower regard. This last event should be the final straw. When a brand is in decline, communication professionals can't simply ignore it.
Proactive not reactive communication strategy is the key here. Those working at BA need to create a concerted brand and PR campaign to get the company back on track. Only then will they have a hope of becoming the airline they once were.
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