Dear U.S. Airways: WTF?!?! Epic PR fail

Whoever manages email marketing at U.S. Airways must have been asleep on the floor next to that air traffic controller.

I fly U.S. Airways almost exclusively because I like to support my “hometown” airline. For the past several years I’ve participated in the airline’s Dividend Miles, a frequent flyer rewards program. I was delighted to get this email from U.S. Airways on April 4 with the subject “They’re waiting in your account…”


YES! How cool, I thought. I do love reward travel. Sure 1,000 miles is not a lot, but it was a nice gesture that made me feel happy about supporting my hometown airline and participating in the program. I considered it an excellent customer relations strategy and I told several people about it. But much to surprise, confusion and utter disappointment, I got this email from U.S. Airways today with the subject line “Oops” (yes really, that was the subject line).  

REALLY, U.S. Airways? I mean REALLY?!?! Everyody makes mistakes – I get that. What’s the cost of this mistake and subsequent horrible mishandling? The cost of my business – and it would appear others feel the same way.

I’ve always been loyal, even with the escalation of various fees (and cuts to service) over the past few years – I’ve spent thousands of dollars on U.S. Airways. I have the U.S. Airways Visa card and use it frequently so I can earn miles. I now welcome suggestions for a new airline loyalty program.

U.S. Airways should have accepted the error and kept the miles in the accounts of those affected – especially considering it went to loyal customers (participants in Dividend Miles). It takes at least 12,500 miles to purchase a one-way ticket, so 1,000 bonus miles is no big deal; I find it hard to believe they would incur any significant financial losses by honoring the original email without any notification there had been an error. I called the airline asking for an explanation but customer service agents in the Dividend Miles departent didn’t have a clue as to what I was talking about. I also contacted the PR department asking for an explanation but did not get a response.

I’ve decided to end my participation in the program and choose another airline for all future travel because apparently, U.S. Airways doesn’t want to see me happy (as they lead me to believe in the first email). This is an epic FAIL and example of bad P.R. in today’s social media age.

You lost me at “oops” – some advice for U.S. Airways
Lesson 1: Have a system of pre-release reviews in place if you are sending correspondence to thousands of customers. Anything going out en mass over email should be given as much importance as the CEO being quoted in the New York Times.

Lesson 2: If somebody screws up big time, eat it internally and don’t broadcast to the world that somebody in your marketing department has sh*%t for brains.

Lesson 3: When sending an email en mass to soon-to-be-pissed-off loyal customers, don’t try to be cute in the email subject line. “Oops” made me believe you didn’t really care that you screwed up.

Lesson 4: Hire people with competence in customer perceptions.

U.S. Airways 1000 mile screwup