Bomb Threats, An Airline and Social Media

Lynn Jeffries    October 12, 2015


Organization: WestJet Airlines

Industry: Aviation

Contact:Vice-President, Communications and Community Relations Richard Bartrem


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What does an airline do when they receive 5 hoax bomb threats over a 4 day period?

If you’re WestJet  you engage your customers on social media.


Historically when it comes to bomb threats and aviation, traditional media is cautious with information that is released to the public. In many cases, bomb threats are rarely published.

During this crisis, WestJet became the media source.  Customers were receiving updates at the same time as traditional media outlets.

Over the 4 day period WestJet stressed the importance of safety on their twitter account and did not take the bomb threat hoax lightly.

Not only were their customers happy with the way information was shared; WestJet managed to also impress marketing and public relations professionals.

According to Marketing Magazine, WestJet gave “a master class in crisis communications”.  WestJet demonstrated how to manage communications through ongoing posts “reiterating safety was its top concern, thanking local emergency crews and stating that it was working with the local police and would share more information when appropriate”.

Adrienne Simic, vice-president of the PR firm Media Profile, called WestJet’s response to the threats “a stellar example of using social media throughout a crisis.”

“WestJet “demonstrated model behaviour in terms of social media management, respecting the audience and being proactive and respectful,” she said.

Simic also pointed out that the company’s response was consistent with its own brand values, like its commitment to safety and to being honest, open and keeping its commitments.

The way this situation was handled is a direct reflection of their corporate culture.

Here are the five secrets to WestJet’s cultural success:

Plan for cultural success:

  • Creating a remarkable cultural experience takes careful planning, including the execution of more than 250 employee programs (read “parties”) across the country.

Share the wealth:

  • Like the commercials say, WestJet employees are owners. In fact, employees have earned more than $300 million since the inception of profit sharing.

Listen, listen, listen:

  • WestJet listens to employees and guests on a regular basis, which helps improve their guests’ experiences.

Include everyone:

  • All new programs must deliver an improved guest experience and be something employees can be proud of.

Celebrate success:

  • As Bartrem said, “When we get it right, we celebrate!” Fun is an intrinsic part of the WestJet culture.

For the third year in a row WestJet  has been voted one of the top 50 employers in Canada.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Walk the Talk. If customer engagement is part of your corporate culture make sure all levels of staff are engaged and on board.
  2. As part of  your crisis management plan remove additional approvals if necessary.
  3. Support your social media team.

If your organization is interested in using social media to become a customer focused company, you will find some great suggestions here.

Submitted By: Lynn Jeffries

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