CHICAGO: Airline PR heads were the focus of intense media attention last week when the surprising results of the new Airline Quality Rating study were announced.
CHICAGO: Airline PR heads were the focus of intense media attention
last week when the surprising results of the new Airline Quality Rating
study were announced.
According to Dean Headley, an associate professor of marketing at
Wichita State University and one of the study’s authors, the results,
which showed that consumer complaints rose 130% in 1999, suggested a
major perception gap between what airlines say they are doing and how
consumers feel about them. The report, he believes, puts pressure on
airlines to deliver on their promises of better service.
’We feel that holding their feet to the fire is a good thing,’ he
’We like to keep the pressure on from a PR standpoint.’
Headley was so swamped with media calls about the study, released last
Monday, that he lost his voice during a Tuesday appearance on NBC’s
Today show. Surveying the PR fallout, Headley quipped, ’Every year we
make one, maybe two airlines happy.’ This year, the top finishers were
Southwest and Continental - both of whom reacted quite differently to
Continental issued a press release touting its high ranking, while
Southwest remained silent. ’If we tried to toot our own horn, the media
wouldn’t pay attention,’ said Christine Turneable-Connelly, Southwest’s
Midwest region communications specialist. She admitted, however, that
Southwest prepared both good-news and bad-news media responses in
anticipation of the survey.
Headley said airlines that have done well in past studies have often
hyped the results in their PR efforts. USAir once put up banners touting
its rankings at airports around the country, while those airlines
showing improvement over past years have trumpeted their gains.
Northwest, which suffered a blistering barrage of consumer complaints at
the start of 1999, came out as the most improved airline in the study,
ranking fourth in overall quality.
’We got a tremendous amount of coverage on that,’ said media director
Jon Austin. He added that the airline will not actively promote the
study results: ’I’d like a slightly higher number (than four) before I
go out there and promote our ranking.’
However, several of the airline PR pros believe the annual study hurts
their industry. ’Although we might do very well, if the industry as a
whole is having problems, it does cause us problems,’ said
TOP 10 AIRLINES
5. Alaska Airlines
6. US Airways
8. America West
Source: Wichita State University and the University of Nebraska at