Southwest sent an email to customers about the grounding of Boeing 737 planes following two crashes.
The message, which is also posted on the Southwest website, expresses sympathy for the lives lost and emphasizes safety as the top priority, yet touts the 737. What remains unclear is the effect on passengers. At the end of the website, Southwest could be clearer about what passengers should do now:
I realize this disruption will inconvenience our Customers during this busy spring travel season, and we will do everything in our power to mitigate the impact to our operation. For that, I offer my sincere apologies. To support our Customers, we are offering flexible rebooking policies for any Customer booked on a canceled flight.
Nothing is more sacred to all of our Southwest Family Members than the trust our Customers place in our airline every day, on every flight. You have our commitment to minimize the disruptions to our Customers’ travel plans, while adhering to the FAA’s requirements and ensuring the Safety of our fleet.
Southwest may have received feedback because additional text is included in a box at the bottom of the page:
Until further notice, you will not be traveling on a 737 MAX 8. Our goal is to operate our schedule with every available aircraft in our fleet to meet our Customers’ expectations during the busy spring travel season.
Due to high call volumes and extended hold times, we strongly encourage Customers to check their flight status at Southwest.com.
For more information, see the 737 MAX 8 Travel Advisory.
The last link, the 737 MAX 8 Travel Advisory, doesn’t seem to clarify. The company was also criticized for the image on “A message from our CEO.”
Analyze the Southwest messages. Who are the primary and secondary audiences, and what are the communication objectives? Assess the organization and writing style.
How could Southwest improve its communication to customers? Do you agree that the messages for affected customers could be clearer? For example, how do they know whether they’re booked on a 737, and what should they do if they are?
In Southwest’s later messages, the woman’s image is omitted. Should Gary Kelly’s photo be placed there instead? Why or why not?