Tone deaf PR is a big no no — Frontier Airlines case study

Watching the Frontier Airlines situation since January in terms of PR and media reputation management has been like watching a slow motion car wreck.

Outsourced jobs, topping the FAA # of complaints list, website crashes, long lines at the airport, luggage waits, inability to check in online or at kiosks–the operational and tech issues go on and on.

Particularly shocking was the tone deaf statement given by a PR spokesman for the airline in March, in regards to all the technological failings that have customer seeing red.

“Bottom line is there was a transition, and continues to be in many areas, as the old Frontier was a money loser … PERIOD,” airline spokesman Todd Lehmacher wrote in an e-mail. “This has been the best technology cutover in the industry in the past decade — look to other high profile cutovers … and you will see that.”

It is the rare moment when the public is so angered by a tone deaf statement like that, which so contradicts the customer experience, that someone takes the time to write a letter to the Denver Post’s editors calling for that PR person’s firing.

The time and energy is takes to do such a thing is a huge red flag for any PR professional and one must wonder what Lehmacher was thinking in issuing a statement like that.

I err on the side of transparency and believe a balance can be found among that and the pressures from stakeholders, legal and the C-suite in situations like this. indeed, just this month, the CEO came out saying the problems are “profoundly disappointing.” Nice to hear some acknowledgement in a situation where customers have angrily stated and aggressively so that they’ll never fly your airline again. Revenues are at risk, jobs and the airline itself in a tsunami of problems as Frontier has had.

What do you think? Please comment and let’s discuss!



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Audrey Strong has more than 20 years combined experience as both a public relations professional and television news person. Her hybrid background makes her an expert in media relations and one of her favorite things is to introduce and get exposure for clients via longtime, trusted media relationships. Her specialties also include media training, crisis communications, issues management, messaging, press kit creation as well as audio/video production.