So here’s the situation: it’s Christmas Eve, and you know that you are going to cancel all your flights that day to and from a particular location. Cue hundreds of unhappy passengers. As you as an airline don’t fly anywhere on Christmas Day, these passengers have to spend Christmas in an airport hotel and travel on the 26th – not the Christmas present anyone wanted.
EasyJet, a top European budget airline, had just this problem when it cancelled all flights to and from Madeira, the Portuguese island, this Christmas Eve, disappointing hundreds of hopeful passengers – families escaping for a break in search of the sun, Portuguese families going home for the festive break. Everyone had their own personal story to tell.
All corporate clients have things go wrong. So how did EasyJet cope?
It put in place a well oiled communications control process, made one bad public relations mistake, and then got the next bit right – sort of…
1: Do nothing and plan your communications strategy – EasyJet didn’t check any passengers in – the problems of unchecking passengers and baggage and the security headaches are enormous! Tick in the box here for EasyJet
2: Don’t give any information until you are ready – Say you are hoping to confirm the departure but are awaiting confirmation. Tick in the box again for EasyJet, and as yet, no-one took to the social media airwaves
3: Make your announcement when you have maximum coverage and through your own medium of choice – Announce the cancellation when you are absolutely sure that you have got all passengers queued up waiting to check-in, and all in one place so you don’t have to go finding them in the airport. Have reserved rooms at the airport hotel (half board so they will at least get a sniff of a turkey on Christmas Day) and have a confirmed replacement flight. Text all passengers with the changes – Yet another tick in the box here for Easyjet
4: Give a reason for the problem but Don’t Lie – BIG mistake here for Easyjet…EasyJet said that the airport at Funchal was closed for two days due to bad weather – so they couldn’t fly out again until the 26th.
But Portuguese passengers phoned home where relatives said the airport was not closed and planes were landing all day. Lots of people have timeshares and they phoned their managers…same story – no, the airport was still open. Nobody likes to be let down and nobody likes to be lied to. Huge mistake from EasyJet – every other carrier was flying in and out of the island.
Result? Disgruntled passengers took to Twitter. One mistake by EasyJet could have been the start of an ongoing social media running story, but EasyJet rescued itself with rule number 5…
5: In a disaster situation, EasyJet chose its channel of choice to communicate with its audience, not the customer’s – In most customer interactions, you engage with your customer using their channel of choice – they Tweet, you Tweet back…but only if you have something positive to say and it promotes a positive PR outcome.
EasyJet risked the likelihood that the problem would get broadcast to a wider audience if they responded to the Tweets. Instead, they dealt quite correctly and directly with their customers, offline, in person and via text.
6: Make a positive gesture – EasyJet also offered passengers the option of a full refund paid immediately with good grace.
How does the SpinBin know all this? My husband and I were booked on the cancelled EasyJet flight to Funchal on Christmas Eve. As soon as we heard of the cancellation, I re-booked a same day TAP Portugal flight.
Rumour has it that EasyJet only has a few airline pilots that can land at Funchal airport – one of the top 10 most dangerous airports in the world. And EasyJet flies no planes on Christmas Day so flying stock and personnel had to be in relevant places to cope with 26th traffic …decide for yourself why it cancelled its Funchal flights that day!
And we can confirm, the airport at Funchal was open all day and EasyJet was the only airline to cancel! Despite that, we certainly played witness to a company with a comprehensive understanding of social media management, and one which knows how to contain bad news – in this case, anyhow.