It was meant to create goodwill, but instead Qantas handed disenchanted consumers a stick to beat it with when it launched an ill-timed social media competition yesterday.
The online rebellion began when the airline opened the “Qantas Luxury” competition on Twitter, asking users to describe their “dream luxury inflight experience” in return for a pair of Qantas first-class pyjamas and a toiletries kit.
Within minutes, users had hijacked the #qantasluxury hashtag to vent their anger at the embattled airline, which late last month cancelled all its flights around the world in an attempt to force government intervention in its industrial negotiations.
“Qantasluxury is a thing of the past, such a shame it could not last. Regrettably the airline’s choice was to blow millions on Alan Joyce,” tweeted Scott Clarke.
Other Twitter users focused on the ongoing industrial dispute. Martin Milne tweeted: “qantasluxury” an airline that respects its staff. Pays them accordingly, doesn’t outsource their jobs.”
By 4.30pm social media measurement company Vizisense estimated more than 22,000 tweets had been sent under the hashtag.
“I think Qantas airways has greatly underestimated the ill will that is still out there,” said Karalee Evans, senior director with public relations agency Text 100.
“It is a genuine attempt at trying to garner some support and good will but they have greatly underestimated Twitter’s propensity to inflame rather than play along with a positive brand game.”
Qantas faced a social media furore late last month when it grounded its fleet. A spokesman for the airline denied that running the contest so soon afterwards had been a mistake.
“We launched the competition with good intentions but clearly didn’t expect the enormity of the response,” he said. “We regularly use Twitter and other social media platforms to communicate . . . on a range of topics and we accept all feedback, good and bad.”
By late afternoon Qantas was trying to diffuse the online hostility, posting tweets such as: “At this rate our “QantasLuxury competition is going to take years to judge.”