Qantas Aircraft

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antasQANTAS AIRLINES: TWITTER NOSEDIVE1

Paul Bigus wrote this case under the supervision of Professor Jana Seijts solely to provide material for class discussion. The authors do not intend to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a managerial situation. The authors may have disguised certain names and other identifying information to protect confidentiality. Richard Ivey School of Business Foundation prohibits any form of reproduction, storage or transmission without its written permission. Reproduction of this material is not covered under authorization by any reproduction rights organization. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, contact Ivey Publishing, Richard Ivey School of Business Foundation, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 3K7; phone (519) 661-3208; fax (519) 661-3882; e-mail cases@ivey.uwo.ca. Richard Ivey School of Business Foundation Version: 2012-11-26

On Thursday, November 24, 2011, Olivia Wirth, executive of Government and Corporate Affairs, at Qantas Airlines (Qantas), faced a communication situation that was spiralling out of control. A day earlier, on Wednesday, November 23, 2011, Qantas had launched a public contest through the social media service Twitter that offered participants a chance to win one of 50 pairs of Qantas first-class pyjamas and a luxury amenity kit.2 To enter, Qantas asked participants to use the Twitter hashtag #QantasLuxury to describe their “dream luxury inflight experience.”3 However, the timing of the public relations exercise was questionable. Qantas had experienced a turbulent year inundated with problems, including a series of aircraft engine troubles, controversial photographs, bitter contract negotiations with its three unions and the stranding of thousands of customers after having grounded its entire fleet.4 Upon launching the contest, the competition quickly diverted in an untended direction, as thousands of people hijacked the Twitter hashtag to express negative comments about Qantas. To make matters worse, Qantas appeared to not be actively monitoring the statements, as the company’s comments thanked users for their entries, tweeting, “Wow! Some very creative tweets out there. Keep the entries coming.” Public discontent with the airline was also expressed through a viral YouTube video parody criticizing Qantas chief executive officer (CEO), Alan Joyce, and the senior management for their inability to understand how to communicate with the public.5 With public animosity toward Qantas continuing to increase, Wirth needed to devise a plan of action before the company further jeopardized its reputation as the world’s leading long-distance airline and one of Australia’s strongest brands.6 1

This case has been written on the basis of published sources only. Consequently, the interpretation and perspectives presented in this case are not necessarily those of Qantas Airlines or any of its employees. 2 Daniel Miller, “Qantas Twitter Campaign Takes Nosedive,” ABC News, November 23, 2011, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-11-22/qantas-twitter-hashtag-backfires/3686940, accessed November 4, 2012. 3 Ibid. 4 Rob Taylor, “Epic Fail for Qantas Twitter Competition,” Reuters, November 22, 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/22/uk-qantas-twit-idUSLNE7AL00U20111122, accessed November 4, 2012. 5 David Glance, “#QantasLuxury: A Qantas Social Media Disaster in Pyjamas,” The Conversation, November 23, 2011, http://theconversation.edu.au/qantasluxury-a-qantas-social-media-disaster-in-pyjamas-4421, accessed November 4, 2012. 6 Qantas, “The Qantas Story,” http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/history/global/en, accessed November 4, 2012.

QANTAS HISTORY7

The origins of Australia’s famous airline, Qantas, first began in 1919, when two former Australian Flying Corps officers, W. Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, accepted an assignment from the Australian Defense Department to survey an air race route from...
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