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7 Bad Ways American Airlines Bombs its Brand Over Baldwin Boot in PR Nightmare

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What a fool--and it ain't Alec Baldwin. In a battle of egos, American Airlines puts itself in a PR nightmare spotlight. While AA insinuates the actor's infantile over Twitter posts, airline PR chooses Facebook for equally stupid remarks. Yes, it does look dumb to claim a lavatory door can slam hard enough to startle your pilot behind a closed cockpit door.
Maybe American Airlines has upgraded to solid oak doors for its on-board bathrooms. It's the only plausible scenario. There's no other explanation for how the airline's claiming that sound blew the captain's door down. That is, of course, unless someone's lying. If you think Alec Baldwin can make himself look stupid, American Airlines, perhaps it's time to look in a mirror.
American Airlines has been one of the only major air transit companies not plagued by a suffering or terrible reputation related to customer service as bad as a heart attack, providing literally no service at all including no facilities, subjecting passengers to questionable searches, planes involved in frequent tarmac crashes or accidents, airline crew kicking customers off planes, flight attendants locked in a battle with passengers over non-existent policies, and problem pilots -- even pilots who decide to arrest passengers over clothing.
Baldwin isn't the first celebrity to be booted from major airlines recently. And what airlines claim to be problem passengers may more accurately be problem crews.
Logically it'd make sense for an airline -- just forced into news headlines over bankruptcy filing and a related PR mess -- would keep mum on anything but the most urgent of matters. We all choose our battles, but something says "Words with Friends" probably isn't a worthwhile one for an ailing business. And it's yet another example of an airline that allows a single employee, or a single crew, to bomb its reputation. There are a lot of ways to handle a simple, and what should have been irrelevant, dispute that's truly related to flying insults. Throwing out insults, or lies, isn't a good one.
7 bad ways American Airlines bombs its brand over the Baldwin boot:
1. Refuse to talk to the press to clarify.
Anyone, including AA, can say what they want about Alec Baldwin. The actor's smart enough to have some PR representation, who actually issues statements to the press. Making no statement via traditional methods looks like you're ducking out of a situation -- and, whether it's the case or not, tends to make a company look guilty.
2. Issue or circulate some ridiculous threat that the FAA can or will take action with Alec Baldwin.
The FAA cellular device policy seems unnecessary or unfounded since study after study indicates no significant interference problems with airplane safety. The policy may have more to do with the FAA or airlines desiring passenger focus. But more importantly, referencing an agency of "power" -- on the same day it's looking "less than" -- probably isn't the wisest. American Airlines apparently missed the fact that Head of the FAA, Randolph Babbitt stepped down only hours before the whole Alec Baldwin-as-passenger fiasco. The official in transportation is mired in a scandal over ... transportation -- the FAA Head resigning after alleged drunk driving. Something says the FAA doesn't want any more questionable PR that doesn't truly require the agency's involvement. It's kind of like the club bouncer who -- over perceived power issues -- tells a guy he's going to call the cops. It looks stupid.
3. Still refuse to talk to the press to clarify, while citing "passenger privacy" as the supposed reason, but do decide -- while criticizing Alec Baldwin for his public use of social media via Twitter -- to look like a hypocrite because you do the same. Just use Facebook to do it instead:
"Since an extremely vocal customer has publicly identified himself as being removed from an American Airlines flight on Tuesday, Dec. 6, we have elected to" ...(fill in the blank with anything equivalent to 'gripe about it on Facebook because we're equally asinine and juvenile -- only we have a lot more to lose since our reputation is already in the spotlight over bankruptcy issues).
4. Publicly insinuate or reference your own passenger/customer to be a liar. "Since an extremely vocal customer has publicly identified himself as being removed from an American Airlines flight ... we [American Airlines] have elected to provide the actual facts of the matter."
5. Look like a liar yourself: "He [Alec Baldwin] slammed the lavatory door so hard, the [American Airlines] cockpit crew heard it and became alarmed, even with the cockpit door closed and locked."
Really? Whomever is responsible for that AA statement may consider a new career. Maybe a fabulous PR agency wrote it. If an AA employee devised that statement, it must be someone who doesn't frequent on-board bathrooms. If any passenger can "slam" one of those First Class lavatory doors -- loudly enough to "alarm" a pilot behind a closed door (oh, and a "locked" one, because that's pertinent in displaying just how much the airline is concerned with safety) -- then apparently American Airlines has upgraded to solid oak.
6. Look like a liar twice. While AA seems to be fine issuing threat of potential FAA investigation or action, it seems mighty odd that word of the supposed ruckus -- which American Airlines now so clearly describes via Facebook, of slamming doors and surprised or upset crew and pilot -- didn't reach those on the ground. At least not before the airline realized it had a problem on its hands, anyway. No, airport police weren't notified or found no need to respond either.
Logic would have it that a scene like the airline describes would cause alert to those not on-board. Yet, strangely, it seems the airline was claiming no awareness of any incident after Baldwin was kicked off the first plane. At the least there seemed to be no knowledge of a bad situation. American Airlines' December 6 tweet to the actor, before he boarded the second AA flight, read: @ AlecBaldwin "Mr. Baldwin, we are looking into this. Please DM us contact information."
That's odd. By the wording and tone of that tweet sent by AA -- in-between Baldwin being booted from one American flight and then placed on another -- it sounds almost like the airline is looking into correcting a customer service problem, not dealing with a problem customer. That kind of seems to be solidified by the fact that American Airlines did in fact choose to place Baldwin on another of its flights, the next one. The airline's choice to do so doesn't exactly reflect a customer who's acted as a safety threat, or is so disparaging that the airline refuses to fly the passenger at all. Moreover, the public tweet from American Airlines seems to indicate that no one's been notified by company employees of any major on-board disruption like the one being described.
7. Publicly dedicate the image of absolutely no one as your representation -- and simply play the wizard behind the curtain.
There's no yellow brick road here, American Airlines. Who is in charge, because it's really unclear -- and what is clear is really unflattering to brand image. Choosing to issue an arguably dumb statement via Facebook, not even your own website, appears completely unprofessional. It reeks of grade school and is probably based on the same theory: Acquiring all the 'Likes' in the world -- that supposedly represent 'friends' in your corner -- isn't going to battle the dislike of poor handling or the permanent memory of how a business has publicly treated a customer of 20 years. Publicly ridiculing a brand-loyal customer only makes it abundantly clear how invaluable a customer is -- and the likelihood of how a company will treat another in the future.
The real reason American Airlines is in a tizzy: Alec Baldwin made the brand look or feel stupid. It's kind of ironic. AA obviously didn't like all those tweets from Baldwin that could potentially make the airline look bad. But the airline's done a much better job of publicly humiliating itself. Ironically Baldwin's been a loyal member of the brand for two decades. All the advertising in the world can't make up for what an airline shows how it handles a previously loyal customer of 20 years.
Equally bad: Baldwin is an individual, responsible for his own reputation. American Airlines is a business, responsible to shareholders -- and the already-ailing company's got a lot more at stake.


American Airlines (AA)
4333 Amon Carter Blvd
Fort Worth, TX 76155
United States
32° 49' 32.3004" N, 97° 3' 2.0736" W
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