Why KLM is being booed these days

Why KLM is being booed these days

Uh-oh. What used to be everybody’s favorite airline to Europe is getting a bad rep these days. I don’t know the extent of damage done to KLM’s popularity as a world-class airline, but the story trending now on social media about the refusal by a KLM ground personnel in Malaysia for Arjean Marie Belco to board her flight to Brazil despite her having complete travel documents and having passed Malaysian immigration, is rapidly getting attention.

Belco is an 18-year old Cartwheel Foundation scholar from a Bukidnon indigenous tribe who was scheduled to travel to Brazil on her first international trip sponsored by Goodxorg and Cartwheel. Too bad, her travel experience was not as pleasant as expected. Read the whole story here: KLM Airlines’ denial of Filipino WYD delegate’s flight hit

This afternoon, KLM posted a statement about the said issue on its Facebook wall and that Arjean is finally on her way to Brazil. What’s interesting though, is that the said post is not set to public, meaning it is filtered and restricted to be viewed by selected regions only. Some of the comments on the statement complained that the restricted post shows that KLM is not transparent about the whole issue as their public statement was limited only to Facebook users in the Philippines.

Here’s a screenshot of the Facebook wall post by KLM (set to restricted/custom view):

(posted by twitter user @litekimchi)

The KLM post got many complaints which mostly revolved on two things:
1. Mr. Shawa, the KLM staff in Malaysia who denied Arjean Marie Belco to board her flight, should be fired.
2. KLM should issue a public apology to Belco and be sued for damages.

Most of the comments angrily pointed out racial discrimination by KLM and that the public statement issued by the airline lack sincerity and didn’t even sound apologetic. So far, there are about 140 comments and increasing.

As the post link is restricted, it is possible that you cannot view it if your location is outside the Philippines. Here’s the link;  try to check if you can read it: https://www.facebook.com/KLM/posts/10151518209660773

Here’s the link to the Goldxorg post (letter to KLM customer service) on Facebook about the unfortunate incident:

It’s interesting to see how this issue will affect KLM’s business not only in the Philippines but worldwide. The incident is a sort of wake up call for the airline company to reassess and improve its services. An update from Goodxorg stated that Luis Petzhold, one of its founders, “met with the KLM Ground Services Regional Station Manager for Malaysia and the Philippines and discussed ways for KLM to move in the right direction.”

When airline companies (and other businesses) fail their customers, for whatever reason, they are judged by how they respond to the situation. And when a mistake or fault has been made, a simple and heartfelt apology is always the best response – it’s the first step to rebuild relationships with customers and win back their trust.

As Jim Rohn says, One customer, well taken care of, could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising.This is how powerful word-of-mouth advertising can be; a satisfied customer happily spreading positive reviews about a good product or service.

We can also turn Mr. Rohn’s quote the other way around and say: One customer, unjustly and wrongly treated, could be more dangerous to a company’s reputation than $1M worth of black propaganda.” With the hundred plus (and counting) angry comments being written on KLM’s Facebook wall post about the Goodxorg project, no wonder it is set to restricted or custom view.

How do you view KLM’s response? What steps do you think should be taken by KLM to resolve this issue?

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