Qantas Social Media Backlash

If Qantas, the Australian airline had any doubt as to how the Australian public feel about the once iconic brand, then their latest Social Media campaign has shown them the truth.

It all started innocently. This week Qantas began a new social media campaign called “Qantas Luxury”. From my view it seems to be an attempt to to win back the hearts and minds of Australians concerned about Qantas. The airline has been battered by four issues in the last year particularly:

  1. a series of  incidents which have suggested to some that the airline appears to be less safe than it once was
  2. a decision to shift more of the airline’s resources offshore
  3. some of the most acrimonious relations between the company and the unions ever which has led to months of ongoing industrial conflict
  4. the recent grounding of the airline by the CEO Alan Joyce which stranded 10s of thousands of people around the world

On Tuesday at 9am Australia Eastern Summer Time, the Qantas PR department sent these Tweets:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first Twitter response said : ‘Planes that arrive intact and on time because they’re staffed and maintained by properly-paid, Australia-based personnel.

Then the Tweets poured in. Within two hours, #qantasluxury was sitting on 13 tweets a minute. By the end of the day, some commentators are claimed they had reached 51 tweets a minute. Within 24 hours, the hashtag #qantasluxury had 1.5 million impressions. Most of the Tweets were negative toward Qantas.

The chief executive of Qantas, Alan Joyce on October 31 after the grounding said “I think the Qantas brand is an amazingly resilient brand, and predicted it would bounce back. These tweets suggest the bounce back may take a long time…

PuppyOnTheRadio: BREAKING NEWS: Qantas introduce #QantasLuxury class. Same as standard class, but the plane leaves the ground.

corinne_grant: it’s a few weeks ago, but I wrote this break-up letter to Qantas. Seems pertinent again today. thehoopla.com.au/dear-qantas-me/ #qantasluxury #myarse

GrogsGamut:  #QantasLuxury is that safe feeling that comes from knowing your pilots are wearing the correct coloured ties [a reference to the suspension of pilots for wearing a red tie protesting Qantas management decisions]

jeremysear : Quick note to corporate Australia: when you’re in the middle of crushing your workforce, don’t start a twitter promotion. #QantasLuxury

rgcooke: Can’t wait to see the Air Crash Investigations episode on the #qantasluxury hashtag disaster.

RustyAway: #qantasluxury Alan Joyce giving his ill-gotten pay rise to charity and then resigning.

SoBohring: Not having to worry about the safety demonstration, because you can’t crash if your flight never leaves

Qantas soon had a Social Media #epicfail on their hands!

I think, at this point, they needed to acknowledge the seriousness of the complaints and make an apology to the public. Qantas needed to tell the public that they understand that the grounding of an airline was not going to be compensated for by a few pairs of pyjamas. Instead Qantas tweeted:

@QantasAirways At this rate our #QantasLuxury competition is going to take years to judge.

Ah, yes it will. The sensible thing next would be for the CEO to respond publicly promising that the issues in the tweets will be read and addressed. Then following that up with doing just that. There is enough unambiguous material in the Tweets to help the airline understand how the public feels. Instead Mr Joyce has “gone to ground”, vanishing from public view. He has done this amidst allegations that the action to ground the planes was preplanned. In addition, there is legal action by the pilots’ union alleging their lockout was an over reaction to wearing the wrong colour ties (no planes were cancelled by the pilots’ actions).

Joyce has now declined an invitation to appear before an Australian  senate inquiry into the Qantas Sale Act citing unavailability. This is despite his earlier assurances under oath that he was ”happy to defend [the decision to ground the airline] and talk about it in any forum, anywhere, because it was the right call”.

If the first sensible thing is not followed, then the next sensible action would be to sack Mr Joyce. Despite Amanda Vanstone suggesting he is a nominee for Australian of the year, Mr Joyce has lost the confidence of his flight crews, pilots, frequent flyers and the general public. To restore that confidence, he needs to be the Board’s Sacrificial lamb.

The twitter feed for  #qantasluxury is here: https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23QantasLuxury

You can also find tweets with a mis spelled version of Qantas (the airline does not have a U in its name). https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23QuantasLuxury

In the meantime, one of my favourites:

RT @kiwi_kali#qantasluxury Somewhere in Qantas HQ a middle aged manager is yelling at a Gen Y social media “expert” to make it stop. / LOL

 

 

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