Virgin has vowed to investigate a group of employees who posted potentially damaging comments about the airline online. The comments appeared on a Facebook group called 'I Survived On The Alitalia Five!' in reference to five planes bought by Virgin that were originally destined for the Italian carrier. Reports said contributors derided passengers as 'chavs', and criticised the condition of the planes. The postings have since been removed.
- The reaction?
Most of the national papers and broadcast media picked it up, but most declined to outline the specific allegations. Virgin felt it needed to respond publicly, putting out a statement saying it was starting a disciplinary investigation of a 'small group' of its staff who made 'malicious' comments. It also said 'safety is the airline's top priority', it was 'proud of its rigorous and stringent maintenance regime' and it 'maintains very high standards of hygiene onboard'.
- Who are the PR players?
Virgin is certainly not shy in PR terms, with the airline's comms director Paul Charles one of the more recognisable names in the in-house PR industry. Meanwhile, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson is in the middle of a high-profile campaign against the proposed merger of British Airways and American Airlines.
- Lessons to be learned
The case will be watched closely by other companies that are unsure how much heed to pay to damaging anonymous internet posts - should they be ignored or vigorously combated? Virgin's decision to go for the latter option is understandable when questions about safety are involved, but the airline will hope that fuelling the story doesn't undermine the luxury image it has consistently pushed.
£400m - Amount Virgin paid Boeing for the five planes.