Tag Archives: crisis communications

Delta Airlines Computer Outage Public Relations Failures

On August 9, 2016 Delta Airlines experienced a system wide computer failure that caused the cancellation or delay of over 2100 flights. The airlines crisis plan had all the right elements but fell short when executed. Delta Airlines Computer Outage Public Relations Failures Delta Airlines Outa

For Lack Of A Horse

For lack of a horse the kingdom was lost. But for the lack of a single router, all of Delta Airlines was too. On August 9, 2016 Delta Airlines entire network went down stranding thousands and creating an on line/news crisis. At first glance, it seemed like Delta had managed the crisis reasonably well. CEO Ed Bastian had issued two apology videos. The company waived re-booking fees for those left stranded, gave anyone delayed by more than three hours a $200.00 voucher and had CEO Bastian participate in a Q&A session led by the A.P. At first look, it seems like textbook crisis management, or was it? Delta Airlines Computer Outage Public Relations Failures Delta Airlines Outage. 

Bad I.T. Infrastructure

Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian speaks during one of two apology videos issued in the wake of the August 9, 2016 system wide network failure that stranded thousands.
Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian speaks during one of two apology videos issued in the wake of the August 9, 2016 system wide network failure that stranded thousands.

Scratch a little deeper and discover that Delta does not have the infrastructure needed to manage their I.T. needs including routing, ticketing, employee scheduling, or on line communications with the Delta App. “A single router should not bring an entire system down,” said computer software and Agile Development expert Ryn Melberg. “There should be redundant systems located at different sites around the country or even the world that can take over in the event of a crisis like this. That everything from networks to public relations is all run from a single location is a sign that redundancy is not built in at Delta.” Delta Airlines Computer

Lackluster Customer Communication

Customers complained that they could not get any real time information from the Delta App for several hours. Add to that the stumble and finger pointing between the airline and Georgia Power over who was at fault over the power outage that caused the Delta ‘house of cards’ to fall that ensued. That anyone stuck at an airport cared in the slightest who was to blame for the outage seems doubtful.

Delta later claimed responsibility. But why not delay assigning blame? This only diverted  resources at Delta that could have been better employed. According to a statement Mr. Bastian later made;

“About 2:30 Monday morning, we lost power to our core data center. The reason we lost it was that we had a power control module that failed. That caused a loss of the transformer that was providing the core power to the data center,” Bastian said in the AP interview. “We have redundant systems in place to take into account power failures. … Unfortunately, when the system tripped over to the B source, we did not have certain servers wired to protect against the power outage. As a result, it caused the entire system to come down.” If your redundant systems are wired incorrectly or just not wired at all, then there is not a redundant system. This statement strains credibility and would have been better left unsaid. Instead, Delta confirmed that their I.T. practices were lacking. “This makes you wonder what else is there at Delta that is not wired correctly or exists at all,” Melberg said. Melberg also stated that the computer infrastructures at most airlines was decades old. “All the new technology in the airline industry is inside the planes, not on the ground,” she stated. “From phones to ticketing etc. you expect to hear that screeching modem sound from 25 years ago when you call or log on to one of the airlines.” Delta Airlines Computer Outage Public Relations Failures

Two Hundred Dollars Not Enough

Consumer advocacy groups representing airline passengers sent a letter to Delta asking the airline to increase its $200 voucher offer, noting some displaced families paid far more than that to accommodate themselves in the wake of the outage, never mind what it would cost to re-plan, re-book another trip. Delta Airlines Computer Outage Public Relations Failures

In part, the letter read: “Families have missed weddings, organized tours and cruises. Businessmen have missed meetings. And, many others have been faced with financial repercussions because of Delta’s technology failure. Your airline’s customer service response has been disappointing. This event was not a cancellation of choice by passengers, nor was it an “Act of God.” This is a failure by Delta.” The letter goes on to say that the Aug. 21 date to rearrange travel affected by the outage is “unreasonable” and the $200 voucher is “clearly inadequate,” noting that European Union regulations require compensation almost three times that amount.

In a statement, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said: “After this catastrophic, system-wide implosion, Delta owes every passenger a full refund — no questions asked – or rescheduled flights without costs or time limits. This airline must do more than just waive change fees. It must make each and every customer whole again.” Delta Airlines Computer Outage Public Relations Failu

Sincerity Lacking

It takes more than ‘playing like’ you care to manage a crisis. While Delta’s crisis plan had all the right strategic planning and tactical elements, it failed because customers remained far worse off afterward in spite of anything the airline said or did. Choices on domestic air carriers are fewer and fewer, but who of those passengers will choose Delta if another choice exists? Delta Airlines Outage.