Hashtag fail.

Qantas has done it again. No, the planes are still flying, but the airline’s efforts in engaging with customers via social platform Twitter has backfired once again.

Despite setting up a dedicated social media unit and hiring four full-time social media managers to monitor what is being said about the brand on Twitter and Facebook, the airline’s most recent social media campaign, encouraging followers to tweet their ideal luxury inflight experience, has given the public another reason to vent their frustrations.

Through Qantas’ official Twitter account, the airline asked followers: “What is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include #QantasLuxury.”

Instead of expected answers of champagne and first-class service, the hashtag was hijacked and angry users are expressing their dissatisfaction with the airline and recent incidents involving union strikes and the grounding of its fleet.

Some tweets posted include “#QantasLuxury is feeding a family of 5 on pittance they pay their ground staff while Alan Joyce is on $94k a week” by user 2FBS and “I think #QantasLuxury is flying in a plane where every nut and bolt has been checked and double checked by someone in Australia who cares” by thomasrdotorg.

Unfortunately, Qantas is not a stranger to social media failures. Just three months ago, the airline was criticised for being ‘racist’ by posting a photo of two competition winners who painted their faces black to impersonate rugby player Radike Samo.

“The idea to run an online contest could have helped restore goodwill but it’s the timing that was all wrong in this instance,” says Alicia Kennedy, area director, Meltwater, ANZ.

“The first step in rebuilding trust is listening to what people are saying and understanding the very real frustrations people have with the brand. Only once you’re armed with this information, can a brand engage with their audience in a truly genuine way,” Kennedy tells Marketing.

But Kennedy doesn’t think Qantas should now abandon all social media efforts: “There will be of course some sensitivities that can’t be discussed but for the most part, consumers want to know that the brand is genuine. In this instance, I think it’s important for Qantas to maintain the rhythm of social media contact but adjust the content to keep with the mood of the day.”

“After weeks of negative publicity, what consumers want to know is can we still trust Qantas? Whether it’s through their social media strategy, advertising or PR, it’s important for Qantas to be authentic in order to help rebuild the trust that the public once had in the brand,” observes Kennedy.


First posted 22/11/2011, updated 24/11/2011 with comments from Alicia Kennedy, area director of Meltwater, ANZ.

  • I can’t understand why Qantas keep asking their customers to do their marketing for them.

    Twitter has a long history of the users reinventing and remoulding communications, so nobody should be surprised when that same pattern continues to happen.

    In short, Qantas needs to stop using Twitter as a user generated content channel, and focus it on customer service. Add value to the customers – then they might add value back.

  • RussD


    Any marketing Qantas does at the moment needs to be tightly controlled. So social media is basically the worst thing they could be involved with. For at least a year.