So, what should Air France do now?

But first, if you are clueless, your question would be, ‘But what did Air France do?’

Answer… here, in Jay Shah’s beautifully written blog post. The better such missives are written – with wit, sarcasm and thought, the more the chances of such things going viral, I’d assume. Air France has written to him and he has responded to the response too!

Now, after you gone through the problem, what do you think should Air France do now? A public apology? A print advertisement explaining their stand? A TVC that tells the world how great Air France is? A cat meme with Air France logo in it? Signing up Justin Bieber as their brand ambassador?

From a communications point of view, here’s my take. I’d love to hear what you think… and if you disagree, what is your suggestion to Air France?

Air-FranceIn this particular case, I would not recommend Air France to do a public apology at all. That means it is making a show – for the sake the world that is planning to shun its services – however honest and heartfelt it sounds.

It says, ‘Hey people who got the stick from us… AND hey the world who is outraging over that blog post and dropping Air France from your consideration list… we’re sorry…’.

Instead, I’d ask Air France to privately reach out to every single passenger who is/has been aggrieved and apologise to them individually. Show all their regret and honesty to individual people – a finite set, I understand, so not technically impossible. Tell them what you plan to do to treat people better in the future.

Air France then would have at least some of them taking to social media to talk about that private apology – it may or may not happen (depending on the content of the apology), but if it does, as Air France, I’d highlight that in my social properties as feedback after the private apology (heartfelt, honest, meaningful and all that – a given). This is the most meaningful and credible PR that I can gain around the issue.

If nobody responds or shares the experience of Air France’s private apology, only then, I’d go on social media to explain what I did and why I did it. And use that to gain some mileage to tell the world of the good work I have done with my apology, because the people who deserve that apology have been informed with the kind of respect that apology demands.

The crux is – there are 2 parties in an apology: the aggrieved and the wrong-doer. If we add the 3rd group – the world at large – that reduces the impact of that apology, at least in my opinion.

Photo courtesy: Times of Israel.

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  • Senthil

    Thought as much – the better you write on SM the more your reach. Had this been written like just another rant, no one would have bothered to share. So, on SM its good, crisp writing + humor that work

  • Narayanaswamy

    I somehow believe Jay Shah’s letter is over dramatic. Its obvious that we have fully heard only one side of the story. I’m not defending Air France Either.

    I would definitely second your thought. In reality a public apology by AirFrance will cause them a much greater dent to their brand and who knows, it can even go beyond considering the racist word involved.

    Infact, AirFrance can use this as an excellent way to win them back. A personal apology, free return tickets to people who really suffered during this, or some personalised way of reaching out. This might actually win them more clients.

    Jay Shah went through turmoil, but, dont these incidents happen in India? I’ve been stranded in Airports and the same is met out domestically also. On international its of a larger magnitude, I accept, but still, my judgement here is 75% fault of AirFrance 25% Drama from Jay Shah. If Jay Shah had been offered a Business class return ticket, will this post been a reality? I doubt!

    • TShirtKing

      jay shah is affected. you are not. so surely jay shah’s letter will look dramatic to you until u (or) some elderly person in your person face a similiar circumstance. after facing that maybe you will also sound over dramatic. roflmao

    • rohan kadam

      “If Jay Shah had been offered a Business class return ticket, will this post been a reality?”

      Well, that’s what should have happened in the first place or just a return flight at the earliest. The whole gripe is that it didn’t happen and the treatment meted out to them was not up to any standards.

    • Good question!

      As humans, we are conditioned to express negative experiences more than positive. So, it is understandable that he was pissed off enough to write this. The difference was he had written about not just himself, but a few others who had suffered too, with uniquely pressing and personal issues surrounding each.

      I’m inclined to assume that even if he was (individually) given a first class ticket back, he may have written a less vitriolic post (that may not have gone as viral as this one) IF he was there for sometime and heard others’ stories. So, it’s no wonder the other person(s) who were whisked away in first class were not even aware of what happened and how badly things went.

      The point is to assume that things do go haywire in business. How humanely you treat your customers when they do and how you set things right is where perceptions are built. And also assume that the one person who is affected could start a fire.

    • babz

      Even if Mr.Shah is putting up a drama, why shouldn’t he? Why the hell should he accommodate a screw up which was clearly from the airlines’ side? Just because such things keep happening everywhere doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. If I were a paying passenger like him and my plans and appointments were screwed without much of a prior notice, and if I was treated the way Shah was, I would very VERY much want the airline to kiss my ass and suck it up to me. BIG TIME!

  • rohan kadam

    A personal apology alone will not help to reach out to those who have read the post written by Jay. They need to give a personal apology to all affected with some compensation and incentive to use their airline again as well as issue a public apology acknowledging their screw up or clarifying their stand. They will also need to do some serious pondering about how are they going to defend the racism allegation, that is if they care at all. Since this has happened multiple times in the past, it’s going to be a tall order.

    • It won’t, of course. My point is, even if they do a public apology, the impact or credibility of it will seem less in the current atmosphere. It is best to go out with the most credible opinion to set perception right and that can only come from aggrieved passengers. For that, they need ot work hard in earning that back.