Lessons from Delta Outage

Delta experienced one of those crisis situations during which it's impossible to make customers happy. After cancelling 1000 flights on Monday, 775 on Tuesday, and more than 300 on Wednesday, the airline finally reports, "Delta's Flight Operations Return to Normal." 

When the power outage first hit on Monday, now blamed on equipment failure, customers weren't kept informed about their flight status. In most cases, passengers received no notification, others received text messages that there flights were ready to board when they were not, and others sat on a plane on a runway for five hours. Because Delta's entire communication system was down, the company had limited ways of getting accurate messages to passengers. The failure does raise questions about Delta's backup systems, although CEO Ed Bastian said they have redundant systems.

On Monday on Twitter, representatives responded to customers, but they could say little other than, for example, "Hi there. I am really sorry for the inconvenience. Our systems are down everywhere. Hopefully it won't be much longer. *SD."

The company had kept the public updated on its website. A string of posts shows Delta's optimism-real or imagined-to maintain the airline's image:

Employees helping customers in Salt Lake City after outage
Delta's flight operations return to normal
Aircraft in Atlanta with beam of sunlight
Flight schedule continues moving towards normalcy

Also to keep customers loyal to Delta, grounded passengers got a full refund and a $200 certificate for a future flight. Bastian apologized in a video, below, and was interviewed on the Associated Press about the situation. His theme is "This is not who we are," which could work well for the company to isolate this incident and point to long-term successes that built the brand. 

Discussion Starters: 

  • Do you agree with my assessment of "This is who we are"? What are the dangers of that communication theme? 
  • What's your view of Bastian's video? Analyze the audience, key messages, delivery style, and so on.
  • What else, if anything, should the company have done on Twitter?