PRoblematic high flyers

Journal Column – We need a clean Brexit
6th July 2017
Journal Column – Bring Back The Major
7th August 2017
Show all

In the past few months, airline companies either side of the Atlantic, British Airways and American Airlines, respectively, have been subject to huge PR disasters. Both were, in effect, due to the world of the internet.


For American Airlines, the disaster involved the physical removal of a passenger when a flight was overbooked, which was filmed and went viral. For BA, it was an IT meltdown that left customers stranded all over the place on bank holiday weekend.

UA disaster

Both would have been easily avoidable if companies made the efforts to adapt in a changing world, one might argue. Perhaps one might say that companies should keep in mind the power of technology, whether being used against them or turning against them out of the blue.

But this is not the issue. The issue at the heart of both these cases is misguided choices that don’t take into account the importance of PR. With American airlines, this involved a blind following of misguided rules that led to the airline being shamed and boycotted massively for its treatment of the passenger in question. All companies face the struggle between customer satisfaction and the rules they must follow, but this instance is a case of ridiculous jobsworths making a fool of themselves when it was obvious that the best idea would be to not challenge the passenger.


British Airways, on the other hand, faced quite the opposite problem. Perhaps unlike their transatlantic counterpart, the company invests a lot of money in its PR. People are, as a result, satisfied with the very high-end service that the airline offers. However, what the company failed to do was realise that investment in PR is not always enough. In this instance, poor investment into a decidedly less than brilliant IT system ended up causing a PR disaster.

BA disater

The lesson to be learnt here is, essentially, the importance of PR in all decisions, as when it goes wrong it can be disastrous for even the highest of flyers.