United Breaks Guitars is the ultimate revenge by a passenger who received poor customer service and I challenge you to watch it and not think “well done you.” Dave Carroll wrote a song about his experience on United Airlines and the video went viral – 10 million people have watched it on You Tube in the past year and they all now think their luggage isn’t safe with United. It’s a salutary lesson for companies in the age of social media – no matter how good your marketing is, you can totally lose control of the message if you disappoint your customers.
On the subject of managing the message there has been a move by airlines in the last couple of years to try to engage passengers more in their on-board safety videos. Air New Zealand’s is perhaps the most extreme with camp aerobic instructor Richard Simmons doing a cheesy 1970’s routine. It might be novel the first time but is surely a discouragement to be a frequent flyer with them – it’s not something you’d want to sit through twice.
On the other hand, the one they did with their staff wearing nothing but body paint needs to be viewed several times to ensure you, um, know where the lifejackets are stowed. It’s hard to concentrate on safety and you have to think they’d be cold if the aircraft had to ditch in the sea. Some of them already look cold, if you know what I mean.
Virgin America’s on-board video has an animation, with a tongue-in-cheek voice over which seems to try to convey the message that “we think this stuff is boring as you do, but hey, we have to do it.” The problem with that is, they really shouldn’t find that stuff boring – that’s our job. It’s also a bit condescending but does have its moments, such as “For the 0.0001% of you that have never operated a seat belt before, it works like this….”
And finally – an entertaining airline steward, at SouthWest, who raps the safety briefing. He’s pretty cool.