American Airlines meets Mr. X – a tragic tale of brand failure

And you thought breaking guitars was bad? How about careers?

I won’t go into a long spiel today, order since almost everything I want to say is in the PowerPoint deck on SlideShare embedded below. But if you agree that this kind of narrow-minded corporate foot-stabbing is insanity, I want to hear about it!

Fail Plane

The story in brief

  1. Blogger has bad experience with American Airlines online,
  2. Blogger blogs about it,
  3. Blogger is contacted by helpful American Airlines employee,
  4. Blogger writes how impressed he is with this employee’s candor,
  5. Happy ending! There is much rejoicing in the executive offices of American Airlines…

Sadly, only the first 4 points above are true. The ending isn’t happy at all.

Visit my SlideShare deck to find out what really happened:

Click here if the SlideShare deck doesn’t appear below.

View more presentations from Dennis Van Staalduinen.

Props: Thanks to friend and writer Alison Gresik for alerting me to this. And of course, props to Dustin Curtis and Mr. X for courage under fire.

11 thoughts on “American Airlines meets Mr. X – a tragic tale of brand failure”

  1. American Airlines sucks for firing someone for helping. I hope he gets a way better job with more money and respect.

    1. You’re absolutely right. But sadly, this kind of narrow-minded approach to new media seems all too prevalent in large companies (and small ones too). They don’t seem to get that customer service in the new universe means being more open, more human, more able to answer intelligent criticism intelligently.

  2. Incredible.

    I recently flew with Ryanair for the first time. This is a company with all their little branding ducks lined neatly in a row. Yes, their promise is cheap flights. No, this promise will not work for all airlines. But the Ryanairs of the world provide the benchmark of cheap, crappy service from which every airline that charges real money should distance themselves as much as possible. On Ryanair, everything is an extra. You are bombarded with ads from the moment you visit their website for the first time until the plane lands and ad advertisement for their car rental partner tickles your eardrums over the PA. It is consistent. And you accept this because your seat was free, or very close to it.

    But even at Ryanair, the customer experience is pleasant, because they deliver on their promise! Cheap, on-time flights. You want to check a bag? Pay for it. But the flight attendants, ticket takers, pilots, and baggage handlers are all quite pleasant and dead on-brand.

    I shudder at the thought, but American Airlines should take a page from the book of Ryanair.

  3. Welcome to the world of big, old-fashioned corporate anonymity. I absolutely agree that Mr. X was unjustly fired, and that AA could have handled this better. However, if Mr. X was not authorized to send such an e-mail (a #fail in and of itself), then that would explain why he was fired.

    I hope Mr. X can show this as the reason he was fired to a more open-minded company in the future, and that he ends up with a better job as a result.

    1. Excellent points. And you’ll notice that I never praised Mr. X’s actions as being particularly *smart* (in a corporate cover-your-butt sense). Brave? Yes. Conscientious? Yes. A model we all wish our companies would follow? Absolutely! But would I recommend his action to anyone else in such a situation? Hmm. We all gotta eat.

  4. Thank you for bringing this to my attention! As an accomplished high tech executive and creator of businesses, I will now take my business to other airlines as well as having my HR department REMOVE American Airlines from our directory of service providers. We do a considerable amount of world wide travel for business. Although in the grand scheme of things this may amount to “very little” in the eyes of the executive leadership of AA, if enough of us take this sort of action, it not only adds up but will effect with their top line revenues enough to make a point. Absolutely shameless and completely disrespectful to what would be any companies most valuable asset – their people!

    1. No thank you! All companies need to realize that their actions toward humans – whether employees, customers, or anyone else – will increasingly be exposed for all to see, and for responsible customers like yourself to hold them accountable for. And that the one spot they are most vulnerable is the one part of their business they don’t own: their brands.

  5. Having worked at a company with a similar attitude here in Ottawa, Canada, I can confirm that it’s not just American corporate culture that’s the problem. Sadly, it seems to affect a great many corporations around the globe.

    My impression is that as a general rule, it’s the business dinosaurs who were around in the 50’s that haven’t figured out that it’s no longer the 50’s! (Though in all honesty, many of them have at least moved on to thinking it’s the 80’s…which was almost as bad.)

    I wish Mr. X well and hope he has better luck finding a job in this recession than I (and a great many others) have!

  6. amazing. I post I shouldnt invest in but cant resist shopping for! And at terrific costs too! Thank Like it! I like it a lot. You know exactly what you’re talking about, exactly where other people are

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