Southwest’s ‘First-Class’ Response

On Sunday, Oct 11, Southwest Airlines passengers on more than 800 flights around the country experienced lengthy delays due to a technical glitch in the company’s systems. Disgruntled passengers took to Twitter and Facebook to voice their grievances, prompting Southwest to execute an extensive social media campaign to apologize, personally, to customers.

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The company responded to hundreds of customer questions and complaints via social media throughout the day and posted frequent updates about the status of flights. Southwest also offered advice and where to go for the most updated information.

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Additionally, for good measure, employees handed out pizza to customers in particularly long lines at Los Angeles International.

In a statement by Linda Rutherford, vice president of communication and outreach for Southwest, she praised the contingency plan already in place for helping to organize and drive the response. A crisis response plan is imperative to any PR department. Crisis Media Training stresses that a public relations crisis communications plan is crucial to any business. While crises are far from ideal, you and your team can be ready with a well-developed plan in place when disaster strikes.

So, what do you think? Did Southwest handle the situation well? What is your best version of a crisis communication plan?

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1 Response to Southwest’s ‘First-Class’ Response

  1. Erin Mondt says:

    I actually was quite aware of this crisis because I flew Southwest a few days after it happened, and one of the flight attendants was talking to me about it on the plane. He said the entire day had been crazy, but they were doing the best they could to please every customer. I totally see everyone’s frustration with the delays and why they felt it was necessary to complain on social media. However, when that many people are affected, of course it is going to take some time to get things straightened out. I think that shows a lot of character that Southwest did their best to respond to every customer on social media and they even took it a step further by offering their customers pizza in the airport. I think overall they did handle the situation well, but I do think they should have addressed the situation sooner on social media, or even sent out an email to the people affected. I really respect their efforts and completely think they handled the situation in a professional manner. I have flown Southwest for years now and have never had issues with feeling taken cared for. I think they have exceptional employees and customer service.

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