|July 8, 2008|
|Airlines are Missing a PR Opportunity Online|
|By Greg Hazley|
|I wrote a story for our monthly magazine early last year about the U.S. airline industry’s relatively solid state affairs. While no exec would tell me flat out that things were great, the general feeling was that the operators and their customers were relatively content with stable oil prices and labor and financial crises at a minimum. That lasted about as long as the ink dried on our magazine.|
Things have changed drastically since then and airlines are taking hits and being forced to explain screw-ups and high prices on a daily basis. So with the daily crisis that is air transport industry communications, there must be an opportunity, as the old cliché tells us. So what medium could be used to reach out to flustered consumers, discuss the barrage of factors that got us all into the airline mess as it exists, and maybe even have a small laugh about the whole thing since we’re all in it together?
Blogs are the answer, of course. After all, how much space is the Wall Street Journal really going to give you to explain that international economic and geopolitical factors are actually to blame for that $15 extra bag fee, not greedy airlines?
I Googled the major airlines and “blog” to find out what they are saying online and was pretty mortified by the results. Either the big carriers have serious SEO problems, or they’re simply not blogging. Here’s what I found:
Southwest – the crowned jewel of airline blogs two years into its existence. Catchy title (“Nuts About Southwest”); breezy, even self-deprecating commentaries; videos, podcasts, Flickr feed, and even an online poll. Nearly every post draws comments, a rarity for corporate blogs.
Delta – not a bad blog; maybe a little too bland and corporate, but regularly updated. Safe is a word that comes to mind. They’re trying, so I give them a plus. Suing an employee-blogger back in '05; that was a PR minus.
Continental – couldn’t find a blog for them, either. My search also illustrated a good reason for any company to start and maintain a blog. Upon typing “continental airlines blog” into Google, the top two results were “Dear Continental Airlines (great flight horror story)” and “Continental Airlines Screws Up Big Time.”
U.S. Airways – Delta’s failed merger partner is nowhere to be found on its own in the blogosphere. Among the first-page search results: “US Airways Blues,” “US Airways may be on time, but it’s falling apart.” Not good.
United – couldn’t find one. Search results: “United Airlines Execs Scam” and EvilUnitedAirlines.blogspot.com.
JetBlue – couldn’t find one for the former media darling, either, although I easily found the JetBlue hostage blog written by a passenger trapped on one of its grounded flights earlier this year. Yikes! JetBlue’s getting ready to announce it hired its first PR agency. Hopefully the firm will get them in the blogosphere, a natural fit for the quirky airline.
American Airlines – AA showed some promise when it tepidly launched a simple blog in April. It appears to not have made it to May.
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