Airline CEO crashes and burns his marketing as private email goes public

Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza “inadvertently sent an e-mail intended as an internal memo to a Spirit Airlines staff member to a couple who had e-mailed Baldanza a complaint about bad service on his airline.

The customers had written what has been characterized as a “long but polite” letter asking for a $376.84 refund to cover a trip ruined by a three-hour delay to their Spirit Airlines flight. In an email meant instructing a staffer how to respond Baldanza wrote: “Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him nothing. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny. ”

He then hit “reply all.”

BTW, Aviation.com (from whence I got this story) said that the customers “were more angry over the rudeness and bad service they felt they had experienced at the hands of Spirit Airlines staff during the three-hour delay than at the fact of the delay itself.”

(I am late to the story, it broke a couple of weeks ago when one of the customers in question posted the story to another blog and then it went into WIDE circulation.)

Aviation.com also quotes the Orlando Sentinal who got the following amazing quotes from one Alison Russell, Spirit Airlines’ director of corporate communications in North America:

  • “No, we really don’t believe we have anything to apologize for regarding Ben’s e-mail.”
  • “I can tell you that Ben cares enormously about our customers and our customer service. Ben said what is exactly true: that we don’t owe the customer anything. People can and do post whatever they would like on the Internet. But it cannot alter your adherence to your company policy or your procedures.”
  • “Truthfully, I’m genuinely not concerned,” she said. “People are going to have a blog for good things or bad things. We are very pleased with our customer service, we are very pleased with what we do.”

It’s always been my understanding that when it comes to customer service, it’s the customer who should determine whether or not a company is pleased with what it does.

Repeat after me, Mr. Baldanza & Ms. Russell, “I’m sorry. We screwed up. This is not how we want to operate. This kind of attitude starts with the top leadership and I clearly need to take full responsibility.” Then you list the concrete actions you are taking to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

There’s a simple lesson that spies and journalists learn early on: Don’t write anything down unless you’re comfortable with it appearing on the front page of the New York Times. Fortunately for spies and journalists, very few people learn that lesson.

Hmmm, seems to be airline theme week …

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4 thoughts on “Airline CEO crashes and burns his marketing as private email goes public

  1. Pingback: Spirit Airlines brand model is screw you « Collateral Damage

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