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Airline Asks For Gas Money, Misses Golden Marketing Opportunity


Business is unpredictable, but its amazing how much time is spent in corporate marketing and PR teams trying to anticipate and avoid any sort of unplanned events. So yesterday when an Air France flight had to divert from landing in Beirut to an unplanned landing in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Unfortunately for them, payments for fuel in Damascus can only be made in cash – so Air France decided to ask their passengers for gas money.

As the story broke in media, which of course it would, here is Air France's statement:

"Air France confirms that it asked passengers if they had cash, as payments for fuel can only be made in cash in Damascus. Ultimately, Air France could pay the full amount itself, and passengers did not have to advance any cash. Air France apologizes to its customers for the inconvenience."

There isn't really a way to prepare for a situation like this – and businesses face these types of events every day. The problem is, most turn to the faceless prepared statement. It is a huge missed opportunity. There is a general awareness among businesses that customers appreciate honesty. It's why we hear so much about authenticity and transparency in communications. The problem usually is that the time when the truth is most powerful is in the immediate moments after dealing with a micro or macro crisis. Honesty works best in real time.

So when Air France with confronted with the unpredictable situation of having to find cash for fuel in Dasmascus – why not share the real truth instead of just waking up the lawyers to craft some meaningless sentences? Here's what they could have said: that they had an unpredictable delay and unforeseen problem, and their crews are trained to do their best to get you to your destination … even if it means asking for gas money (which they ended up not needing, by the way). And then the next day, introduce a new policy of keeping a box full of cash right next to the black box in the cockpit so this doesn't happen again of course.

Photo Credit: Wayne Sutton – used from his related blog post about a local restaurant's efforts to encourage more tips!

11 thoughts on “Airline Asks For Gas Money, Misses Golden Marketing Opportunity”

  1. Creating an outstanding client experience is a guaranteed way to create client loyalty and to compete and survive in tough economic times Rohit. This situation clearly may backfire for this airline.

    Also with stories like these Rohit, it is also one of the reasons many of us go in to businesses for ourselves – to create a personal, delightful experience for our clients, and ourselves.

    We are able to get creative. We can make it fun and playful. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to create and deliver an amazing client experience.

    Exceptional client experiences focus on the needs of clients:
    •a good deal (value offering).
    •a highly polished service experience. (think Disney)
    •a feeling of worth (my dollars matter to me, and it should matter to you).
    •human-ness in communication, (human-like language) even in times of the unthinkable.

  2. Well, I have to admit, that information you’ve provided is quite substantial. It gave me couple useful tips I might be using from now on. Thanks.
    Thank you for the review! It is very actual for me, some of the info is just right what I need. It is very absorbing review. To be honest, I thought it would not be that interesting, however I was wrong. I’ve found lots of good info for myself. Regards!


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#1 WSJ & USA Today Bestselling Author

Rohit is the author of 9 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


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