Oops: EasyJet Does Social Media Very Wrong

Filed Under: Media

I don’t envy the jobs of those who work in airline social media. People are generally grouchy when they fly, and people are even more willing to be mean online than in person. That being said, stuff that is posted online is “forever” (even if it’s deleted later), so it’s important for those who work in social media to think twice before they correspond.

I’d say that EasyJet today turned a non-story into a story with how they handled things.

A Twitter user posted about how an EasyJet plane traveling from London to Geneva had a row of seats without seatbacks, asking the question of how this can be allowed. As it turns out, he wasn’t actually on the flight — his partner was, and sent the picture to him.

Here’s a close-in of the picture:

How did the airline respond? Rather than reassuring the person or providing an explanation, they requested that he delete the picture before they can investigate it, then asking him to DM them more information.

That’s not how that works, EasyJet:

  • It’s normal for airlines to want to take things out of the public eye and into DMs, so that it isn’t so public
  • It’s bad enough to suggest that the person needs to delete the picture, but to say that it needs to be deleted before they can investigate? Really?

EasyJet didn’t seem to understand that the person who posted the picture had the upper-hand here.

If EasyJet hadn’t handled it this way, I’d say this is a total non-story. Occasionally airline seats break, and they’re taken out of service. Based on everything I’ve read, the passenger was asked to just sit there during boarding, and then they were going to figure out where to seat her.

My guess is that:

  • While the airline knew those seats were out of service, something got mixed up, and the airport staff weren’t told not to seat people there
  • When the passenger boarded and arrived at the seat, it was easier to just ask her to stay there for a moment while they figured it out, rather than getting her to “swim upstream” back to the door, which is nearly impossible during boarding
  • I have no reason to believe the airline would have allowed anyone to actually sit there during takeoff or landing; by all accounts EasyJet has an excellent safety record

But c’mon EasyJet, this simply isn’t how you handle a situation like this. There are planes like this flying every day, and it’s a non-story. It’s only when it’s handled like this that it becomes a story.

(Tip of the hat to @involupgrade)

  1. Lucky,

    It’s very possible they requested the picture to be removed because there are two passengers in the picture whose faces you can see, and who probably did not consent to their photo being put on the internet in that situation.

  2. @ Vabomere — While that’s fair enough, that still doesn’t justify only looking into this situation *after* it’s removed. If this is viewed as a safety issue then it shouldn’t be contingent upon removing the picture.

  3. @Vabomere then these passengers should request picture removal, not easyJet.
    And yes, easyJet looks embarassing in this situation. I don’t actually think this is non-story, since we don’t know 100% of the facts about the seating arrangements on this flight.

  4. I do think the request for the removal of the picture has more to do with European privacy laws being different than it does malicious behavior by the social media person, but yes, the “optics” of the tweet — and the broken seats! — were very bad for EasyJet.

  5. @Vabomere – Good point. EasyJet actually lost a chance to shame the poster here. Something along the lines of: “thanks for brining this to our attention. While we investigate would you please either remove the photo with other passengers’ faces or DM us evidence that they consented to having their pictures posted.”

  6. Are people really upset that someone took a picture of someone in a public place? That’s not how this works, that’s not how any of this works. PUBLIC means just that, you are outside your private space, you should have no expectation of privacy.

  7. That should be exactly how this works. The guy is clearly trying to make out that easyJet are unsafe by flying people without seat backs. Why should he be allowed to make that claim without evidence, context or giving easyJet the chance to respond. The mainstream media would send it to the company ask them to respond before publishing it. I think their response is correct and should be encouraged. Yes it could have been worded better, whilst rather than before, but the premise is correct… I.e. don’t post potentially libelous material before we can give you the facts.

  8. If it was me I would have made an effort to obscure the faces of those passengers that had not consented to their photo being taken.

    I don’t think it’s fair – someone is not just taking their picture. They are broadcasting it to all and sundry on Twitter and then it ends up on sites like this and god knows where else.

  9. @RBC—You seem to be unfamiliar with how European companies are terrified of the unknown liabilities stemming from GDPR.

  10. @Lucky

    EasyJet should have phrased the tweet more carefully here, but if you think they were telling him to remove the picture or they’ll withhold the investigation, that has to be the dumbest reading of that tweet. All I’m seeing are instructions that follow a sequence of events, and you’re trying to characterize it like it’s blackmail.

    Please stop trying to dramatize this lukewarm non-event into a hot scandal. Entry level social media people are usually young and they say dumb crap all the time. You need to grow up a bit.

  11. Well that’s what you get if you hire the cheapest agency who employs unskilled minimum-wage slaves to do your social media.

  12. Streisand effect. It wouldn’t have become as much of a story if they hadn’t asked him to remove it

  13. I wouldn’t dream of posting a picture in this situation without blurring out the faces. It is a gross invasion of privacy ; the suggestion that this is a public space might apply in the US ( though even there, it would be tacky)
    The IPhone zombies are everywhere…Airports, hotel lounges, planes, taking photos of everything they eat and drink, and sometimes including photos of others. It’s intrusive and unpleasant.
    Easyjet was ham-fisted in the way it handled this, but ultimately correct. BTW, the onus is not on the person photographed to request deletion ( HTF would they even know) but on the photographer to ensure rights are not violated.

  14. I’m more concerned about people taking photographs of others without consent and posting them online It’s highly inappropriate and disrespectful apart from the legal ramifications. If I found someone had taken my pic in a similar situation and posted it , I would litigate
    What if someone photographed without their consent as here , is with someone they shouldn’t be ? On a flight when they had called in sick ?

  15. Personally, I read Easyjet’s response as DM us the details so we can investigate! We can’t investigate before we receive the details. The request to delete the photo was just part of the sentence rather than a proviso. But that’s just how I read it. Unfortunately, written communications can be interpreted in a million ways, however simple a sentence may be!

  16. They just told the pax to seat there until the aisle cleared up during boarding and then she was assigned a different seat. As for the seat itself, it’s probable the recline mechanism was broken, so they removed the seatbacks to avoid having someone sit in an empty row when said row is unsafe to sit in. No big deal, in fact its commonish, but of course someone has to get their 15 seconds of fame on Twitter

  17. Why do people see the need to publish everything they see for the whole world to view? If the person who took the picture had an issue all they had to do was ask the cabin crew manager. EasyJet staff are super approachable and they would have explained. It’s not an airline where you get kicked off the plane if you ask cabin crew questions.

    EasyJet have a great safety record and there is zero chance that a qualified pilot in the EU would allow a plane in his / her control to fly in such a condition anyway with a passenger in such a seat. Great way to lose a licence.

    It’s a total non story and to then attack EasyJet for requesting the picture to be removed also beggars belief. Having such a picture for the whole world to see is less than helpful and is an accusation when posted in such a way. Why should they have to accept that? I see their point. I am sure too that their social media people are also instructed not to interfere in aircraft operations anyway. The last thing a pilot / cabin crew manager needs is second guessing via social media.

    This type of time wasting adds to EasyJet’s cost base by having to incur resources to manage it and then increases their fares. Not a good outcome.

  18. Amazing how many people here don’t understand GDPR & the concept of being in a public space, it’s laughable.

  19. He was probably on hour 11 of a 12 hour shift in Luton. By that point he’d probably lost the will to live and was just mucking around.

  20. @Noah Being 15 minutes into anything at Luton would make you want to end it all & escape pronto.

  21. They’re in a public space. The poster has every right to publish that photo without anyone’s consent.

    @Icarus and others commenting that he is on the wrong side of the law to publish what is his property, you need to do your homework before making such comments. If you don’t want your photo or image taken or recorded in public, stay at home.

  22. At least the comments in this post will help ID the idiots who have no idea what GDPR is. Go ahead and google it and read before you comment.

    You can get sued if you take a picture of someone, even in a public place, and share that picture on your social media without getting that person’s consent. Unlike Americans, Europeans take privacy rights very seriously.

  23. To be fair, the OP appears to be a sneak copying in various regulatory bodies and he wasnt even on board.

  24. Now you’re saying Easyjet was telling him to remove the picture because EZ was concerned with people’s privacy AAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH
    You’re really that naive?

  25. To all these people commenting on privacy rights, EasyJet didn’t post or share the picture or host the phone on one of their platforms. There is no way they could be held liable for this. It would be nice if they said something so it seemed like they cared about other passengers, but they wouldn’t be legally required to.

  26. @Kevin, seems you need to go and brush up on GDPR. Photos such as the one published, taken in a public place do not contravene GDPR.

    Nobody’s personal data has been put at risk, nothing in that photo can be used to identify them, nor are they doing anything illegal or private in the image.

    Some images do fall foul of GDPR, however, the owner of this photo is perfectly safe to post on social media without any fear of prosecution under GDPR.

    Seems idiocy is closer to home than you originally thought.

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