US Airways Goes from family-friendly to X-Rated

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Due to the picture’s graphic nature, I will not provide the image. However, you may visit the following URL to view it yourself. http://theconcourse.deadspin.com/us-airways-tweets-out-photo-of-model-airplane-in-womans-1563098531

US Airways accidentally posted a pornographic image, featuring a naked woman and a toy plane, on its Twitter account on Monday. The airline has more than 428,000 followers on Twitter, all of which were exposed to the disturbing photograph.

Supposedly, the image had been tweeted to US Airways by another person. While a member of the company’s social media team attempted to flag this photo as inappropriate, they seemed to have  attached it to a Twitter reply sent to a different customer, who had been complaining about a flight delay.

The tweet containing the photo was removed approximately 1 hour after the tweet was sent (YIKES!). As you can image, this incident was a catalyst for the swell in US Airways’ followers and fell victim to social media scrutiny.  US Airways then fired back by tweeting a message stating, “We apologize for an inappropriate image recently shared as a link in one of our responses. We’ve removed the tweet and are investigating.” The airline has confirmed to the Washington Post that it will not fire the member of its social media team responsible for the issue simply because it was an accident. 

From a PR stand point, it was very important for the company to take responsibility for what occurred and apologize. US Airways did a satisfactory job in doing just that. They also get an A+ for stating that the issue will be investigated further to determine whether or not this was in fact an accident . The fact that this horrific photo was left out in the public for 60 minutes after it’s dissemination makes people question whether or not it was truly an accident. Also, I would recommend better training for the Social Media team. Let’s face it, something went wrong in that office Monday afternoon. US Airways needs to better train their employees so that this mistake does not happen again. I also recommend that the organization be as transparent and available to the media & public as possible. In a situation like this it always helps to communicate and work with the media to help narrate the story.  Some people are confused as to why US Airways has not fired the person responsible. Well, let’s think about it for a moment. US Airways is one of the less popular airlines. US Airways has the least amount of customer loyalty compared to American Airlines or Delta. The photo leak seems to have been an honest mistake. And that old thought that even bad publicity is good publicity remains valid in some cases. If this incident is resulting in free advertisement, a swell in social media engagement, and have people talking about your brand, the good seems to outweigh the bad so why fire the poor social media guy?

Although this was a dramatic hit for US Airways, the news cycle will go on. I predict that by Sunday, this story will be dead and just a chuckle at the water cooler on Monday. The news cycle is a never ending cyclone that does not stop at one story, by Sunday we will be discussing the next scandal!

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