The #QantasLuxury Fail

on November 22, 2011 | Australia | Comments (1)

After the recent social media PR failures of the union pay discussions and resulting grounding of their fleet, Qantas today tried to recover some online brand reputation. And crashed and burned.

Qantas launched the #QantasLuxury campaign, encouraging twitter users to tweet their luxury inflight ideas on the hashtag to win one of 50 $30 prize packs of first class amenities. Sadly, it backfired quickly.

Based on an analysis of 1,500 tweets by TweetReach (covering about an hour in real time!), the hashtag’s mostly negative-but-funny tweets reached over 500,000 people, and resulted in up to 1.4 million impressions. In about one hour.

The campaign has even spurred spinoffs of other brands that suffer from a strong negative reputation, including #metrotrainsluxury (Metro trains, Melbourne), #CityrailLuxury (CityRail, Sydney) and more.

Qantas announced that the competition was part of their ‘onling social media strategy’ when talking to The Australian today (link:

Notable tweets (including some from the most influential twitterati in Australia) included:

  • @GrogsGamut: “#QantasLuxury – when the passengers arrive before the couriers delivering the lockout notices do”
  • @sunnybankian: “#QantasLuxury is knowing a $30 prize pack probably won’t buy off the Australian public”
  • @ANLevine: “#QantasLuxury is a Sydney-Melbourne flight via the new hub in Shanghai.”
  • @penelopename: “#QantasLuxury is Qantas PR deploying the slides and life boats from their office to escape their Twitter disaster.”
  • @R_Chirgwin: “#QantasLuxury is being able to pay lawyers for 1000 words of T&Cs for a competition for pyjamas when your business is running an airline.”
  • @AMonkeyInSilk: “#QantasLuxury Being in charge of Virgin Australia PR and knowing that Qantas is doing your job for you.”

Indeed, the best player out of recent social media scandals seems to be V Australia, who have continued to engage with their users and answer questions, and keeping out of tags like #qantasluxury – although I know it must be tempting to join in.

So most importantly, where should Qantas go?

1.    A promotion won’t fix your brand. Qantas is now well-known as having pretty negative sentiment online, and a promotion is not going to be any kind of magic bullet to fix this. Change needs to be slow and gradual, and take into account users’ attitudes and concerns and address them.

2.    Take this as another lesson of the power of social media. You need to think of how your users are going to respond. What is it that they want? I’m guessing the answer isn’t Qantas pyjamas.

3.    Take the humour and embrace it. In order to attempt recovery from this, Qantas needs to create a prize for the funniest tweets. It would be best done by collecting them and encouraging users to vote on a ‘people’s choice’ award online.

4.    Work out what the brand’s key messages and unique selling points are. Is Qantas supposed to be ‘the luxury airline’ or ‘Australia’s airline’ or what? Currently it’s all a bit confused.

5.    Engage with users online. Situations like this and the grounding are why you hire social media managers – to engage with consumers and ally their fears / concerns / feedback. Provide an avenue for them to give this feedback and show tangible results from it. Ask them what they would like to win or how. Remember that you can’t have “social media” without ‘social’.

It’s good to see Qantas trying to start along these lines, spurring on #QantasWeHearYou. Unfortunately much of this is just segmenting the criticism between the two tags, and they still aren’t replying and engaging with specific users.

This provides an excellent lesson for large brands getting into social media. There needs to be strategy for when things are going well, and when they go badly. And resourcing is a key part of this.

Author Bio

Hugh Stephens is the director of Dialogue Consulting (link:, a national social media agency launching in Melbourne next week that has an emphasis on community building and engagement strategy. You can follow him on twitter @DialogueAus or @hughstephens.

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