Maybe some of them already are, but the volcano eruption in Iceland that is putting the flight plans of so many into a tailspin also offers a real opportunity for carriers treating passengers well to capitalize by getting the message out. If you work in public relations for an airline that is not leaving your customers to fend for themselves, then the last few days, and possibly the coming ones also are a golden opportunity to get this positive message out in all channels, including social media.
From a quick search it looks like the Qantas and Emirates PR teams have been doing the best job so far. Maybe the PR people working for airlines mentioned near the bottom of this post have been smart in hiding under their desks.
From searches on Google and Twitter here are some of the positive quotes I saw, all linked to their respective sources:
Some carriers, like Australia’s Qantas, put passengers up in hotels, but many did not, offering instead only to refund tickets or exchange them for later flights. Dubai-based Emirates airline, the Middle East’s biggest carrier, estimated it was spending more than $1 million a day just to provide hotels and meals to more than 5,000 passengers who were in transit when flights were canceled last week.
And 2,500 transit passengers on Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways have been stranded by cancellations since Thursday in the United Arab Emirates capital, a spokeswoman for the airline said. “We are accommodating those passengers in approximately 1,500 rooms in 12 hotels across the city,” the spokeswoman said, without giving an estimate of the costs to the airline.
Some who had booked for domestic travel with British Airways were offered journeys by road instead. BA sent coaches to each of its five domestic destinations every two hours. “A fair amount of people will have got to their destination,” the carrier said.
About 2,000 Qantas customers are stuck in Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong. If they don’t want to wait, they are being offered flights to non-European destinations or back to Australia, Epstein said. About 100 international customers are being put up in hotels in Australia.
For passengers who have already arrived at Paris-Charles de Gaulle and who have a connecting flight, over 2,000 hotel rooms have been booked for April 16. Meal vouchers are also available.
Air France airport and sales staff are available to inform passengers whose flights have been canceled.
Those rated by passengers as somewhere in between good and bad:
Singapore Airlines said they were giving priority to elderly passengers and those with young children for hotel accommodation, but right now there were some shortages in Singapore hotels. The airline was paying for two nights of hotel accommodation for affected passengers, for as much as S$300 per room a night, according to a pamphlet being distributed to passengers.
And then those airlines that passengers are cursing:
The Cutler family, from Dronfield, in Derbyshire, were stranded in Paris, facing hotel bills of up to £250 a night and “no idea” how they were going to get home. “We really don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Simon Cutler, who works as a paramedic in Sheffield. Both he and his wife Irene, a bank manager, were expected back at work on Monday morning, and their two daughters – Abigail, 14, and Lauren, 10, were due back at school. Their BMI flight to East Midlands airport in Nottingham had been cancelled along with all other flights from Charles de Gaulle airport.
Once the dust settles, there really is a strong message here from the airlines that looked after customers well, primarily those that paid for hotel rooms – I’d be tempted to consider even running a few ads to drive home the fact. Airline product differentiation is far from the easiest marketing job in the world, but it looks like we are seeing a clear line between the good and the bad airlines during this current problem from Iceland. Putting the post crisis marketing decisions aside, right now there is absolutely no question that if you are paying millions for hotel rooms, then the general public should be reading about it. Emirates quoting figures on how much they are spending was a very nice PR touch.
And in all the stories I read of people affected, this was the one that really stuck in my mind – no mention of which airline they are travelling on (I’m guessing Emirates), but well done to the Millennium Airport Hotel in Dubai.
In Dubai, a British couple who were due to get married in the UK over the weekend found themselves making their vows on Skype so that their friends and family could witness the wedding. Sean Murtagh, 24, and his new wife Natalie, a 30-year-old Australian, got married in Brisbane three weeks ago but had been due to hold a humanist ceremony for family and friends in the UK on Saturday. When they found themselves stranded after changing planes in Dubai on Thursday, they had to make other plans. Staff at the Millennium Airport Hotel in Dubai baked them a cake, decorated the lobby and set up a laptop with Skype and a projector so that the ceremony could take place via a link to London. “It’s been an incredible day,” said Murtagh. “We were never going to forget it anyway but we certainly won’t forget it now.” Humanist celebrant Caroline Black, who conducted the ceremony from Trailfinders Sports Club in Ealing, west London, said: “I’ve done lots of humanist weddings but not one like this at all. It was just like any other wedding except the bride and groom weren’t there.”