Easyjet prevents guide dog from flying: Twitter unleashed

Summary:One Twitter user's reach for help in the social media world highlighted a vast array of failures by one leading international airline.

Easyjet have again failed spectacularly with their customer service and unleashed a storm on indignation on Twitter.

On Sunday evening, Joanna Jones tried to board a flight at London’s Gatwick Airport for Belfast, Northern Ireland, after spending the week with her family in England.

She was booked on an Easyjet flight from London to Belfast on Sunday evening and had pre-booked assistance with the airline. She had no issues on the flight when she came over.

Easyjet refused to let her board the flight with Orla her guide dog. so Jones turned to Twitter for advice.

Discrimination, or procedure?

Jones had 15 minutes to convince Easyjet that Orla was indeed a guide dog, even though the dog was wearing a bright yellow harness and identifying tag.

Staff at Easyjet admitted that they could see Orla was a guide dog, but said that Jones needed to provide the paperwork to "make her flight more 'comfortable’".

Easyjet policy specifies that documentation is required, but they “will accept the dogs identity tag attached to the dogs official working harness and the identity card of the owner”

Jones hadn’t received any documentation from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, and so was prevented from getting on her flight back to Northern Ireland.

She had not previously been made aware that she would require documentation when flying with her dog. She had been flying for 12 years without these types of issues.

After receiving documentation, Jones and her guide dog were re-booked on a flight back home on Monday morning.

Response delays

Easyjet did not initially respond to the growing storm of protest over their decision.

The company's Twitter stream was silent until midnight on Sunday -– more than 3 hours after the flight had departed. Its response policy seemed to consist of repeating the same information over and over again to everyone who tweeted.

It’s not the first time Easyjet have been in trouble over their policies over disabled passengers. Last December, Easyjet was accused of bias against disabled passengers in wheelchairs.

Anti-social brand?

It’s worth noting that if you are a brand that has to look after customer's issues', incidents may arise outside of working hours.

Issues can occur over weekends or late at night. Brands should consider having a customer response framework to address these out of hours issues.

Easyjet’s customer service division, Easyjetcare, has a Twitter account that has been inactive since mid-November. Perhaps customers are unaware of this account, there are 'no customer service issues with Easyjet, or the Twitter alias is no longer monitored.

Silence such as this on an account supposedly used for customer service certainly does not reflect well on a company's brand.

The challenge for the social brand is that in our 24x7 mobile culture, it’s important to have a policy that suits your business model and matches your business hours.

If you’re working with customers from 5am to midnight, then your customer service response should reflect this. If you want to run a '9--5' business and a '9--5' response, stating this on your social streams will set appropriate expectations with your customers.

Is a certificate confirming that a guide dog is indeed a guide dog really worth this sort of attention? Or is common sense actually all you need?

***Update:***

Andrew McConnell, Corporate Affairs Manager for Easyjet stated: "You should be aware that the Civil Aviation Authority and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association support us in this case, and both have confirmed that we have adhered to all necessary guidelines".  Easyjet also referenced this extract from Easyjet.com

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Topics: Social Enterprise, Enterprise Software, Software

About

Eileen Brown is a social business consultant who has been working with collaborative technologies for 20 years. Eileen creates the social business, energises communities and ignites social commerce and social CRM. She develops social business strategy, customer reach and online branding. Her book, Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketi... Full Bio

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