Qantas in new social media fail with #QantasLuxury hashtag backlash

Qantas is this afternoon facing a huge social media backlash after a competition inviting Twitter followers to win a pair of first class pyjamas by tweeting their idea of a luxury experience turned into an opportunity for angry customers to share their gripes.

The latest social media disaster comes just weeks after Qantas was forced to apologise for running a Twitter competition in which it gave sports fans free tickets for going blackface.

The airline launched a competition around two hours ago inviting followers to win “a First Class gift pack feat. a luxury amenity kit and our famous QF PJs.”

The challenge to followers was: “To enter tell us ‘What is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include #QantasLuxury.”

Within minutes the #QantasLuxury was filled with customers who had their own views on the airline which has been suffering from a disastrous PR profile following its grounding of the fleet at the beginning of the month.  

At the time of posting, dozens of new tweets are appearing every minute.

They include

Getting from A to B without the plane being grounded or an engine catching fire

#QantasLuxury is a complimentary cheap hotel room because your cynical airway left you stranded in Adelaide, of all places. Adelaide.

#QantasLuxury is a massive executive bonus while your workers starve and your former customers choke

My idea for #QantasLuxury is not having cabin crew lie to my face about my electronic devices and their safety on a plane.

Couriers to make sure my staff around the world get their lockout notices any hour of the day or night #qantasluxury

More than 3mins notice that the whole service has been grounded #QantasLuxury

A ‘Full service’ airline that gives apples or cookies for flights between 11am and 3pm #NoLunchForYou

A plane that doesnt have an exploding engine! #QantasLuxury

My #QantasLuxury experience would be no matter what time or duration of the flight a proper meal is served a cookie is not a meal its a joke

Flights that leave on schedule because Management doesn’t arbitrarily shut down the airline #QantasLuxury

Planes that arrive intact and on time because they’re staffed and maintained by properly paid, Australia-based personnel.

#qantasluxury having a skybed so “superior in its class” you have to be under 5 foot to be able to use it with your legs straight.

#QantasLuxury? 1. Plane takes off/arrives on time; 2. Baggage delivered promptly. This used to be called #QantasService

#qantasluxury – is not being told you can apply for refund online & finding out they only refund via a phone # that no one answers for 4hrs

#qantasluxury is the dream world Alan Joyce lives in where all the feedback to the Qantas action has been positive.

In a further headache for the battered brand, the competition is due to run until the end of Thursday signalling that the onslaught could continue for another two days.

At the time of writing, Mumbrella was unable to get beyond the voicemail of the Qantas communications team for comment.


  1. willemrt
    22 Nov 11
    2:23 pm

  2. It’s like the marketing department and the PR don’t talk so good? #amazingstories

  3. OnceWasLazy
    22 Nov 11
    2:28 pm

  4. …from bad to worse to just plain dumb.

  5. Batman
    22 Nov 11
    2:29 pm

  6. It’s like a genital wart that just won’t go away. Qantas are in big doodoo, and seem only to be digging deeper at the moment.

    Be you a ALP, LNP, or whover, there’s no denying that Joyce and Co. have messed this up big time.

    One would think that at a time like this, with negotiations having stalled again, business is not as usual, and you wouldn’t just push through and hope to reach the end of the tunnel…

  7. Anonymous
    22 Nov 11
    2:40 pm

  8. Qantas – “We’ve never lost a plane but not through lack of trying!”

  9. sven
    22 Nov 11
    2:41 pm

  10. yet another reason why marketing, esp where it governs social media, needs to report into Corporate Affairs/PR

  11. Rexicus Maximus
    22 Nov 11
    2:44 pm

  12. Qantas Luxury is having a mink lined hard hat to avoid the flak!

  13. Harry
    22 Nov 11
    2:58 pm

  14. A great time to relaunch Ansett.

  15. Scoobee Doo
    22 Nov 11
    3:00 pm

  16. Probably not a good idea to ask your customers to indulge your brand so close to screwing them over…

  17. AdGrunt
    22 Nov 11
    3:03 pm

  18. Wow. That’s just plain naive.

  19. Michaela Aguilar-Davis
    22 Nov 11
    3:03 pm

  20. I hope Qantas learns from it. SM is something that can spin out of control quiete easily.

  21. anthony
    22 Nov 11
    3:04 pm

  22. attributions for the tweets is _so_ old media, huh?

  23. Ben
    22 Nov 11
    3:11 pm

  24. I would suggest that the short list may have just got a bit shorter…

    Lets just remember that all of these strikes we are seeing never would have happened if it wasn’t for Julia. It’s not Qanta’s fault they are being raped by a powerful union bent on saving their skin but destroying Australias national airline.

    It sickens me no one understands the root of the problem.

    Thank you Qantas for more material for our ongoing case study: “How not to use social media”.

  25. Rexicus Maximus
    22 Nov 11
    3:18 pm

  26. Wow Ben. That’s just plain naive.

  27. chris
    22 Nov 11
    3:21 pm

  28. Classic case of great idea, bady timing and execution. Qantas has for years had a huge internal corporate marketing and pr department and ignored the potential of using external agencies to provide counsel. Maybe it’s time to rethink this. The recent grounding (and subsequent decision of the court of public opinion) should say “Alan, maybe your people are too internally-focussed, they don’t live in the real world, they can’t see the wood for the trees. About time you got an external point of view.” Yes, I work in pr but the descent of a once great Australian icon that is now endangering its very existence surely calls for drastic action. The ‘piece to camera’ every night of Alan and Olivia just isn’t working.

  29. Groucho
    22 Nov 11
    3:35 pm

  30. “Mumbrella can’t get beyond the QF communications team voicemail”………………. probably because they’re all talking to headhunters.

  31. Pete
    22 Nov 11
    3:44 pm

  32. Ah yes, I must quote you guys sometime without attributing the author…

  33. Cody C
    22 Nov 11
    3:45 pm

  34. On the upside, anyone interested in winning a lame prize can probably do so quite easily as most of the responses will be negative. Qantas pajamas anyone?

  35. Jabba
    22 Nov 11
    3:47 pm

  36. WOW……. wonder why they are looking for creative agencies when they come up with (bloody stupid) ideas like this promotion!……..

  37. AR
    22 Nov 11
    4:01 pm

  38. Chris I wouldn’t call the promotion a great idea no matter what their current IR situation is. A set of pyjamas from a company the size of Qantas? Big whoop.

    A better marketing idea to improve the PR would have been to give points increases to their FF members or promote medium-tier members up a level.

    Airlines are particularly bad at marketing though, remember the Virgin Frequent Flyer email debacle?

    At least #qantasluxury has made for an entertaining day on Twitter.

  39. Gizzard
    22 Nov 11
    4:04 pm

  40. I worked in QF Public Affairs for 10 years in the early 90s and the arrogance of the organisation – to its customers, to its suppliers, to the community at large – was simply astounding then, as it seems to be now.The term “cocoon” springs to mind because that’s where the executive team resides – completely protected from the realities of the real world. Qantas is where I where I learnt to blush because of the dismissive manner in which it dealt with genuine complaints (at the time public affairs had 34 staff ; customer relations had four). That arrogance seems not to have diminished but to have grown massively ; the term “national carrier” seems to have taken on a whole new dimension… isn’t QF anymore but the more than 50 fabulous airlines that fly to/from Australia each day with real concern for their loyal customers. And yes, oddly, I’m a Platinum level FF…but I’m working on that status!

  41. Jenni Beattie
    22 Nov 11
    4:09 pm

  42. This incident reminds me of Chevy Tahoe in 2006 running ad competitions when consumer sentiment about large gas guzzling machines was very low. Result – lots of negative ad parodies (search YouTube).

    It did make for hilarious viewing for those outside the company.

  43. OldSchool
    22 Nov 11
    4:31 pm

  44. Suggest Ben on 12 is a plant. Or just stupid!

  45. Rob
    22 Nov 11
    4:36 pm

  46. If i was a corporate i’d have a clear policy – only use social media to respond to and track opinions, comments etc. Don’t under any circumstances waste precious resources creating these lame promotions that have limited upside but huge downside potential if for whatever reason someone decides you deserve a kicking.

    From what I can tell, the risk and pain isn’t worth the limited number of participants who in this case are up for a pair of pyjamas, whoopee.

    When it works this stuff is a pimple on an elephant (in general) and when it fails (more often) it can be a disaster that ends up as news, such as in this case for QANTAS.

  47. defender of troglodytes
    22 Nov 11
    4:52 pm

  48. Agree totally chris
    22 Nov 11
    3:21 pm
    Signed, PR Hack

  49. Tazza
    22 Nov 11
    4:54 pm

  50. Quick Question, well, perhaps not so quick? If your company is already at their low point with regards PR, customer and worker satisfaction, share prices have dropped and you have already alienated a whole country what would you do to rebuild? Get a survey out, find out everything that people think you are, in reality, and their perceptions and then address the major issues one by one over the course of the next few years. This promotion has given Qantas so much data as to what has annoyed people, who were annoyed the most and what to address in what order with clever marketing, advertising and PR campaigns over the course of the next few year. Whilst getting the Qantas Luxury logo embedded in all our minds, who is NOT talking about it! It;s basically a free survey to customer sentiment! If they were running a competition for the reason for positive engagement wouldn’t they offer a WAY better prize. This almost seems designed to be forum for this to happen and then use it to work back up from the low they are already in? Just a thought.

  51. Anonymous
    22 Nov 11
    5:03 pm

  52. Check out Nissan scandal kicking off too.

  53. Betty
    22 Nov 11
    5:18 pm

  54. I have to say I wince now when I see Alan Joyce on TV…

    and as for their PR flack Olivia who is their spokesperson – she seems rather condescending., snooty and disdainful on camera

    They really should not let Alan Joyce anywhere near a camera or mike and Olivia should go back to writing media releases and hire a PR spokesperson who seems empathetic…

  55. Linda
    22 Nov 11
    5:40 pm

  56. Tazza, sounds like a great theory but, sadly, I don’t think this is the case. Hopefully they’ll take some of the responses and learn from them, though.

  57. Matt
    22 Nov 11
    6:21 pm

  58. “yet another reason why marketing, esp where it governs social media, needs to report into Corporate Affairs/PR”

    So it can become unresponsive by taking 7 weeks for a tweet to make it through a corporate approval cycle? sounds good.

    Qantas just needs to own up and open up the floor. People just want to be listened to, so they should give them a place to do so that is in it’s own space where it doesn’t affect their other projects.

  59. Josh
    22 Nov 11
    6:22 pm

  60. Ben 12. Agree totally. & 23 obviously not.
    Bludging Aussies wanting to screw QF & shareholders.

  61. Maxi
    22 Nov 11
    6:26 pm

  62. Ben, you sicken me, because you obviously have no idea whats actually going on here, and just have a hatred for unions, because you think that you’re supposed to!!

  63. Megan
    22 Nov 11
    6:29 pm

  64. I agree with Tazza.

    Don’t marketing people always say “there’s no such thing as bad publicity?”

    Just because it’s cynical, doesn’t mean there’s no method behind their madness.

    Like any of the big corporations that run this country, they don’t give a sh1t about their workers or their customers.

  65. Graham
    22 Nov 11
    6:52 pm

  66. There is only one solution to all of this.

    Give Tony Simms the marketing director role at Qantas. They need an older more experienced sandwich board guy to look after their social efforts.

  67. Leslie
    22 Nov 11
    6:54 pm

  68. Some of those Tweets are pretty funny. Tim, any chance of matching Twitter names to them?

  69. chris
    22 Nov 11
    7:16 pm

  70. a great window into the stupidity and arrogance of some large corporate brands. It’s entertaining watching brands that previously held a megaphone to their audience still not understanding that consumers now talk back

  71. TheWongNumber
    22 Nov 11
    7:40 pm

  72. Whenever there’s a social media PR fail in a headline it’s the same story, just a different brand in each case. The recurring issue is a lack of realisation that social media communications are led by the customer, not the brand.

    The basic human rule: Understand the consumer sentiment first, chat and listen to them then use that to improve your product; give the public what they want.

  73. fraser
    22 Nov 11
    7:50 pm

  74. Forgetting the abysmal timing what were qantas thinking on as a prize to promote their luxury first class brand – a pair of qantas branded PJs. Surely things aren’t that tight at Qantas towers. Prizes need to be aspirational to motivate people to enter the competition and reflect the brand. Qantas provide a perishable service, once its gone its gone, surely in todays economic climate there is spare capacity to offer a free flight on first class to London or LA that has a lot more genuine value than a pair of PJ’s

  75. Kristian
    22 Nov 11
    7:54 pm

  76. #Qantasluxury would be having your tweets quoted with attribution.

  77. mumbrella
    22 Nov 11
    8:31 pm

  78. Hi Leslie,

    Fair question. The post was dashed out to catch our daily email and my first thought was that not everybody would want to be named. But on reflection, I guess they opted in by playing the game – I’m on an iPhone only til the morning but will links names then.
    Tim – Mumbrella

  79. a
    22 Nov 11
    9:51 pm

  80. Must agree with the tweets about the ‘food’ on Qantas, I was amazed to get water an apple (very bruised, no kidding) and a dry oatmeal biscuit. And this was 5 plus years ago, seems things haven’t changed or gotten worse for our poor Qantas. The cut-price Jetstar provides better food for only $2.00 extra.

  81. Danielle
    22 Nov 11
    10:08 pm

  82. Great social media is authentic and organic and it can’t be hijacked
    by corporations (even those bearing rather uninspiring gifts).

    The Tribe has spoken Alan Joyce. In fact the noise is now deafening.

    Lift your game and take a serious look at you agency, marketing and public relations departments.

  83. firestarter
    22 Nov 11
    10:16 pm

  84. Thewongnumber clearly understands whats going on….

  85. Leslie
    23 Nov 11
    6:40 am

  86. Thanks Tim!

  87. Grant
    23 Nov 11
    7:33 am

  88. I dont think Ben’s comments are wholly unreasonable… I don’t agree that grounding the airline was a great solution, but my right-wing brain supports QANTAS in their drive to be competitive.

    @Tazza (26): you don’t work at GASP do you? (kidding :)) I’d suggest however that they must surely have had a sense of the largely negative consumer sentiment already? Surely they’d have been better off monitoring the sentiment and conducting surveys outside of social where they were always going to be visibly lampooned.

    @Fraser: I like the idea of qantas PJs. The idea was obviously to drum up some noise from advocates, who’d probably agree with me under “normal circumstances”. Prizes don’t need to be big, or money-can’t-buy to work – but their timing sure sucks. I would enter, but don’t really want to tweeps to see.

  89. Larisa Ishchenko
    23 Nov 11
    8:48 am

  90. #QantasLuxury is another great example that demonstrates SOCIAL aspect of social media. Idea is not enough, you need to understand and connect PLACE, TIME, and AUDIENCE…

  91. EnGy
    23 Nov 11
    8:53 am

  92. I thought it was brilliant. I was having a laugh and most of Australia seemed to be talking abut a pair of PJs!

    I’ve won two of these comps before, they’ve been running for a while now!

  93. Jimi Bostock - PUSH
    23 Nov 11
    11:13 am

  94. This is a classic case of the value of the pause button in social media. Sometimes you just have to hit the pause button and think through the ramifications of actions on the back of a crisis.

    I have to agree with the comments about the need for PR professionals to be involved with social media. I think they call it PR 2.0 :)

    In the end, what is stooped about this disaster is it stinks of the old elephant in the room syndrome. Right now the elephant is the IR issues. Trying to not talk about the elephant only highlights the elephant – its what is meant by the “elephant in the room” – its the big, huge, obvious thing standing right in the middle of the room.

    It would not matter what Qantarse did. It would always be seen as an attempt at distraction.

    While it’s a cliche,this social stuff is all about authenticity and not trying to pretend the elephant ain’t in the room is not authentic.


    Jimi Bostock | PUSH agency Canberra

  95. Mark Cameron
    23 Nov 11
    12:02 pm

  96. For some reason 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 happens when a major brand asks the audience to behave in a certain way.

    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.

  97. Fraser
    23 Nov 11
    6:31 pm

  98. @grant
    Sorry I can’t see any value in giving pj’s as a prize, main reasons being-
    1. They are qantas branded, the brand is in the gutter at the moment and I can’t imagine anyone wants to be linked to the brand let alone be an advocate
    2. They are pajamas
    3. Total disconnect from value of the brands offering eg $10-15k flights and 50 buck pj’s. It’s a bit like Ferrari promoting a new car by giving away those Ferrari caps that only Holden drivers wear.
    4. The target audience/advocates are guilted, pj’s isn’t going to get them pimping the brand. An upgrade from business to first would help get the brand out of the gutter for this audience.

  99. Grant
    23 Nov 11
    7:17 pm

  100. @Fraser – I think we are mostly on the same page… My position is it’s not the pjs that makes it a useless promotion… It’s their ignorance (or perhaps lack of acknowledgement of) of how their brand is perceived

  101. Simone
    24 Nov 11
    1:05 pm

  102. @ Tazza (26) I like your thinking. When Qantas pulled out of all coalition credit card programs and announced that you would need a direct earn card to earn Qantas points in future we in loyalty program agency land thought this was either an incredibly stupid or incredibly clever move. The subsequent building of their Qantas Shop and alliance with Woolworths demonstrated that they are indeed very clever. So to your point Tazza (or should I say Hammy?) I do believe their is method to their madness – the visibility of this campaign will tie in nicely when (and if) they go about rectifying their public image based on this valuable feedback. If they didn’t do it on purpose they’d to well to follow your advice 😉