Posted by: Ian Ross | April 27, 2008

PR Crash For Irish Airline

When you make a mistake, admit it and live with the consequences. Aer Lingus recently sold 700 first class airline tickets worth $2,800 for $7 by accident. Opps. A $2 million error.

The Irish airline went public with the mistake. A good first step for a publicly traded company. You don’t want to sweep a mistake like that under the rug.

But then they made a bigger error by refusing to deal with the consequences. They cancelled all of the tickets — arguing any customer that bought the deep discount ticket knew they were taking advantage of a company messup.

That’s a tough argument to make when other airlines have held crazy promotions. Ryanair and go! (a Hawaiian airline) have sold tickets for $1. Virgin airlines has offered free companion tickets.

Customers and politicians were outraged. The story hit the European headlines for a few days. By blaming the consumer and refusing to honour completed deals, the airline was cast as the villian.

It took the airline two days to realize that they had crashed into a PR disaster. So wisely they partly reversed their decision and honoured the tickets in economy class.

In a press statement, the company apologized and stated “…following a full investigation of the booking error undertaken yesterday evening by the company, it appears that some customers may have genuinely believed that they were making a booking in economy class.”

But the damage was done. Hopefully a big lesson was learned. Never call your customer a thief, when you are the one that made the mistake.

Thanks to the Wired blog for flagging this story.

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