Delta Airlines outage: crisis communication in a modern era

A power outage today at its headquarters has caused a Delta Airlines outage. This meant several passengers could not catch their flights, or faced long delays or flight cancellations. Countries affected by the outage included USA, UK, Japan and Italy.
It started early Monday morning ET USA time. The official Delta Airlines website noted in an updated news article that a computer outage affected flights. It took roughly six hours before systems were back online, albeit still with support for flights.
On average, about 19 Delta Airlines flights go out from The Netherlands (Amsterdam Schiphol Airport) every day. 3 had been able to depart before the outage, the others ran into problems or delays.
The actual problem of the Delta Airlines outage was the fact that the moment passengers wanted to board the airplane, it was not possible because the systems couldn’t be accessed.
delta airlines outage

Delta Airlines outage: keep your customers informed

The Dutch news reported on the incident today, interviewing several passengers. They were of course not happy with the situation: not just about the outage itself, but also about the non-communication. Quoting one of the passengers:

“I did not receive an email with the news of the outage.”

And several people took to Twitter as well.
In our multi-channel modern age, email still rules for important communications, including crisis communications like in this situation. Had Delta executed a crisis communications plan, this could have made it just that little bit better for the passengers. They would have been informed of the situation, and what they could or should do to either rebook their flight or prepare for the delay.
Also, a crisis email can be used to communicate followups: any vouchers, waivers or other compensations that customers can use to soften the pain. With a bit of effort of the communications team, informing customers through email could have saved a bit of reputation, or maybe even strengthened it.
After all, a company can show it really means business in the darkest hour: when the situation is really dire, how does the company handle it?

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