Blogaroo! Southwest Airlines riding a wild horse

You must need nerves of steel to work in Southwest Airlines comms department right now. Once you mount the corporate-blogging horse there’s no getting off it again. And Southwest is learning enough about what can then happen to write the ultimate book on the subject.

Yesterday they finally decided there was no choice but to temporarily ground 44 of their Boeing 737s – including 38 taken straight off the line – affected by the safety allegations that have blown up around them.

At time of writing they have 17 comments in response to the add 260 they received on their earlier posts on the issue. The 17 are markedly more negative than positive – although the hard core of support is indicative of a degree of loyalty that many other companies would struggle to secure.

Obviously this is not going to go away easily. So will Southwest have regrets over the blog. I’m pretty sure that they won’t. On balance it’s been a great tool for them in this horrendous situation.

Most importantly of all, it’s let their supporters declare their positive views in public – something that never really happens with conventional media coverage because nobody’s out looking for those people.

Barring new developments, this may be the nadir for Southwest in this saga, now it’s going to be interesting to see how they use the blog to repair the inevitable damage.

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3 Responses to Blogaroo! Southwest Airlines riding a wild horse

  1. John J. Tormey III, Esq. March 13, 2008 at 7:02 pm #

    Kieran, with all due respect, I believe that the above text misses the most important characteristic of the miasma that is the Southwest blog. Since the crisis hit a few days ago, Southwest has been regularly REMOVING those posts which Southwest believes most damaging – yet those are precisely the same posts that are the most important. Holding aside the First Amendment implications for a moment, the result is that what remains on the blog is nothing resembling a representative statistical sample of the consumer and citizen outrage to the cracked airplanes.

    As but one example of the type of text Southwest has deliberately deleted after posting (it being understood that U.S. versions currently blogged have been more strongly-worded):
    ————–

    Quiet Rockland of Rockland County, New York is enraged over the callous disregard for safety and human life demonstrated by Southwest Airlines (NYSE: “LUV”) and the FAA. We call for: (1) a nationwide traveler and consumer boycott of Southwest, and (2) a further federal investigation of Southwest and “failed regulator” FAA.

    The persons that should be flying Southwest at this point, should be only those referred by Doctor Kevorkian. Although the depraved Southwest spin-machine audaciously ‘assures’ us Southwest’s six (6) cracked-fuselage aircraft were “never a safety problem”, Southwest should tell that to the victims of the 1988 Aloha Airlines disaster. There, metal fatigue on an aging Boeing 737 caused 18 feet of fuselage to be ripped off the plane causing grievous injuries and loss of life. House Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar in his press conference Saturday, posted on “www.cspan.org”, presented detailed evidence against Southwest and “Bobby” Sturgell’s failed FAA. The subject events occurred while “Bobby” Sturgell was Deputy Administrator and Acting Administrator of the FAA. On Saturday, Representative Oberstar thereupon rightfully excoriated the aero-mercantalists and FAA for their long-standing “tombstone mentality”. Although morally reprehensible, and now apparent after a many-month detailed Congressional investigation, Southwest and FAA now appear to be in the insalubrious business of making those tombstones happen, in addition to simply reacting to those tombstones post facto.

    As recently as last year, Southwest Airlines, with the help of supposed federal regulator FAA, on at least 47 of Southwest’s Boeing 737 aircraft, on between 1,451 and 60,000 flights, over a period of two-and-one-half years, deliberately put approximately 200,000 or more unsuspecting travelers in harm’s way – making them fly in un-inspected, non-compliant, aged, and in some cases fuselage-cracked commercial aircraft. Southwest knew the names and faces of their potential victims. Southwest gladly took their money, and for that matter at this point Southwest owes each of them at least a rebate in full of their ticket prices. This was not mere negligence.

    This WILL not stand.

    Quiet Rockland asks and encourages those Southwest employees tired of subscribing to their company’s tombstone culture, to leave their sinking airship now to find other and better employ at a responsible airline that actually acknowledges the dignity of the individual human traveler. We further ask every American consumer to now act in solidarity – cancel all flights and other business with Southwest – boycott the airline which we today re-name “Air Kevorkian” – and just say “No” to Southwest, to FAA, and to the greed of the aeromercantile complex that continually and habitually puts profits over people’s lives.

    And, as to Southwest stockholders? Vote your conscience.

    John J. Tormey III, Esq.
    Quiet Rockland

  2. Kieran Daly March 13, 2008 at 7:38 pm #

    Strong stuff John. Frankly I think I’d have to sympathise with Southwest in not posting comments like that on their own blog. In my view it’s pretty clear that Southwest’s operational record over many years just doesn’t back up what’s being said there. They genuinely have an outstanding safety record and I don’t think there is any evidence that it’s down to mere good fortune.

    That said, I’m not sure what the answer is to just what level of comment corporations should be expected to post on their own blogs. I suppose I’d say that Southwest is close to the optimum at present – posting some highly critical comments but, if you’re correct, declining to post some of the more extreme remarks. Perhaps they should explicitly say what their policy is.

  3. Addison March 14, 2008 at 3:10 am #

    Hey, what’s with the hammering of Southwest? Its not like they have a history of being accident prone or callous.

    I have a trip coming up on Southwest – coast to coast BTW – and I am NOT canceling my ticket to switch airlines. I think its a great company with HAPPY employees that has provided safe travel and amazing value for money for travelers in the US. Shareholders have even done well – which other airline can say that in the US?

    What can I say, Southwest carried more people last year than any other US airline. Mos of us must LUV Southwest!

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