Social Media Saves Qantas from Complete Crash and Burn

By: Julie Lamb | @juliedlamb

As everyone knows, many companies have taken to using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate more directly and more efficiently with their customers and the public in general. One such company that has developed a very advanced social media presence is Qantas Airlines. On Twitter, they seem to have a different Twitter handle for almost every aspect of their company: Qantas Airlines for general information, Qantas Media for breaking news, Qantas Vacations for information about good deals, and Qantas USA specifically for US based companies. With over 110,000 fans on Facebook and over 75,000 followers cumulatively on Twitter, they certainly have the ability to reach many people directly both to provide important information and to receive customer feedback.

This extensive social media presence was put to the test this past week when the ongoing battle between workers unions and the Qantas administration resulted in Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, grounding the entire Qanats fleet for two days. Such a dramatic move, and all of the inconveniences it caused to thousands of people, unsurprisingly sent the social media sites into a tailspin. According to social media expert Thomas Tudehope, “At their peak, conversations about Alan Joyce, Qantas and Anthony Albanese were all trending worldwide.” He continued by expressing surprise: “This is particularly remarkable given that Australia only has an estimated 2 million Twitter accounts compared to a global audience pushing towards 250 million accounts.”

In fact, going back through the Qantas Airline Twitter feed, reveals that at least at one point on October 30, Qantas was forced to write the following tweet: “We apologise for lack of response for past hour, our account exceeded the hourly tweet limit.” From an outside perspective of someone not at all disrupted by Qantas’ canceled or delayed flights, their Twitter feed is full of informative, efficient, and empathetic comments from Qantas written directly to specific people’s posts. It gives the impression of a very effective means of providing customer service, with many people thanking Qantas for the information they provided over Twitter.

On the other hand, their Facebook page presents a different picture. To every informative post in the past week, there are hundreds if not thousands of comments as people, whether in support of the unions or of Alan Joyce passionately argue their case. Comments such as “I will never fly Qantas again. I will boycott your airline at any cost” were juxtaposed to those who thought Joyce took a smart and logical step in order to put the unions in their place. It is interesting though, that despite Qantas’ efficiency on Twitter, it does not appear that they moderated any of the comments on Facebook either by dispelling rumors started or simply deleting very negative comments.

Regardless of what percentage of the comments supported Qantas, the fact remains that the dramatic move to ground the entire fleet did cost them millions of dollars as well as caused damage to their brand name and reputation. As arbitration talks begin between Qantas and the  the Transport Workers Union, which has only 250 Twitter followers and no official Facebook presence, it will be interesting to see if Qantas’ extensive use of social media, and the way it allows it to be more transparent, to address questions and concerns quickly, and to overall make it seem more human will play an important role in mitigating the brand damage by maintaining and acquiring loyal supporters.


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