Delta’s response to baggage fee debacle carries lessons for others

Companies should consider empowering staffers to do ‘the right thing,’ rather than risk a thumping on social media.

Delta Airlines learned the hard way that in the age of social media, you must empower employees to make good decisions and, if something does go wrong, to act more quickly than in the past. You also have to do what your audience would consider “the right thing.”

On June 7, Staff Sgt. Robert O’Hair posted on a video on YouTube (which has since been “removed by user”) complaining that Delta charged him and 14 members of his unit returning from Afghanistan an extra $200 for checking a fourth bag. O’Hair noted that his fourth bag contained weapons used to protect troops and Afghan civilians. The video was quickly viewed by tens of thousands of people.

In a blog post published the same day, Delta explained its policy and said it would look into the situation. It did not promise refunds.

This resulted in several angry comments from people who threatened never to fly on Delta again.

Sometime around midday on June 8, the blog was updated (although the date still read June 7). It began with the disingenuous, “Thank you to everyone who has participated in the recent conversations on baggage allowances for active duty military personnel. We appreciate your thoughts and insight…”

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