'EasyJet has broken a cardinal rule of social media' - PR pros criticise airline's 'backless seat' response

PR professionals have questioned easyJet's decision to ask on Twitter for a person to remove a tweeted image that shows a passenger sitting on a seat with no back.

The airline has received a barrage of criticism on social media today (6 August) after Matthew Harris shared the image on Twitter.

Among the people to comment were journalists asking Harris for more information:

In its response, Easyjet asked for the picture to be removed:

This request itself was criticised by members of the public:

EasyJet later tweeted this update:

Asked by PRWeek, several comms professionals criticised easyJet's approach.

Jules Ugo, MD at travel and tourism PR specialist Lotus, said: "It is totally understandable that brands need to protect themselves against fake news and misinformation. However, asking for a tweet to be removed and not explaining why comes across as controlling, bullying and as if the brand is trying to hide possible negative content from customers. This is what has led to the uproar in the easyJet case.

"If they had been clear that they were asking it to be removed whilst they clarified its legitimacy, there would have been more consumer sympathy and understanding.

"Better still to have responded saying they were investigating whilst not asking for it to be removed.

"The twitter activity shows just how powerful and damaging consumer reaction via social media can be and yet again raises the question to all brands about how they can ensure content posted by members of the public is true and accurate."

James Brooke, MD at Rooster PR, said: "If an airline’s safety is ever put to question, the response has to be quick, informative and above all; transparent. Any hint of a cover up and your credibility immediately diminishes. Once the photo is out there – posed or not – the first response should always come with reassurance.

"EasyJet’s response should have been a clear rebuttal of any concern that a seat in this condition would ever be in use for passengers, outlining the series of engineering and security checks that take place to ensure the safety of every passenger on board. Investigating the specific circumstances of the photo in question should of course follow, but asking to take down the photo is only ever going to spark fury and suspicion."

Other PR professionals responded on Twitter:

Finally, it didn't take long for opportunist brands to get newsjacking:

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