EasyJet crash lands into Twitter hell

Profile picture for user gonzodaddy By Den Howlett September 26, 2013
Summary:
EasyJet got into a terrible muddle when it denied boarding to a Tweeting lawyer. But this is only the tip of the iceberg in what is a clumsy use of social tools.

EasyJet crashed into Twitter hell when it refused to board a law professor who Tweeted something that by today's standards was pretty innocuous. Here is the 'offending' Tweet along with what happened next:

Are they having a laugh or what? Apparently not:

It was only when Leiser flashed his university ID card and asked if the manager knew anything about the laws on free speech that things took a turn for the better and he was allowed on the flight. In true social media fashion, EasyJet's Twitter crisis team swung into action:

 Wassup doc?

Nowadays, brands have a great deal to fear from media savvy people. This story was picked up by BoingBoing and The Drum before it came across my eye line via another ReTweet. BoingBoing has huge reach so you can be sure that many thousands of people saw the story.

Despite denying there is a policy of denying (sic) boarding to passengers who send negative Tweets prior to boarding, something must have been said or an impression created that EasyJet staff felt they were OK in taking the action they did. Why doesn't this surprise? It seems to me that despite the many excellent sources of advice on the use of social media, brands often seem way behind the curve. A combination of broken processes and often idiotic execution cause problems that are avoidable.

Ironically, Leiser had further reason to Tweet after the event:

Indeed. Here's my story. Despite the fact my EasyJet Speedy Boarding card expired some months ago, I still regularly get emails asking me to participate in their online surveys.

Easyjet qa

 

There is an unsubscribe option but would it not make sense for EasyJet to contact me at the time when my card expired asking if I want to be removed from their community panel? Alternatively, since they know Leiser flew, they must equally know I have not flown with them since early 2012. Shouldn't that trigger an alert? What about all the other SB card holders that have not flown with the airline? What might EasyJet learn from them?

It gets worse. When EasyJet introduced a change of policy concerning hand luggage, all hell broke loose. Again, they solicited feedback from the community. This is typical of hundreds of responses: (login required)

I agree with a lot of the comments in that EJ is becoming more like the dreaded Ryanair! Having 2 bag sizes will cause considerable delays which costs money both in staff wages and delays in departure times! The cost of a flight now is becoming quite ridiculous with all the add-ons. I have been flying for 11 years from Alicante to Luton and the costs are now so high that I am having to reduce the number of flights I take - or even go on Ryanair!!!
Not impressed with the new baggage system at all!

That didn't stop EasyJet from implementing its stated policy unchanged.

Verdict

When policies are misunderstood and acted upon inapproprietly, the fallout can act like a pebble being tossed into a pond. Airlines are particularly vulnerable in large part because so many of them deliver poor service.

I wonder why EasyJet is bothering with its community surveys. Other than soliciting positive feedback which is then rewarded, it almost never deals with the issues it raises. As Leiser and I can testify, EasyJet's processes are incomplete at best and poorly thought through at worst. This is glaringly visible in the public domain and I am surprised that companies like EasyJet don't wake up to what the very community it wishes to hold close are experiencing.

Image credit: EasyJet