Delta Airlines: Now Boarding ‘H8GAYS’

Welcome to Crisis Communications 101, class. I’m your professor, Dr. SPW.

In today’s forum, we will explore the constant downward spiral known as the airline industry. You see, since the horrific tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, all airlines were confronted with insurmountable obstacles to keep flying. There was national fear, distrust and avoidance of flight. Some flied for bankruptcy protection. Others went belly up completely. This brings us to Delta Airlines, which used to embody the endearing acronym “Don’t Even Leave The Airport.”

And now, that vitriol has come back, reared its ugly and may scratch its damn eyes out. Why? The real-not-photoshopped-amazing-to-hard-to-believe-that-was-coincidental-boarding-pass above is a good hint.

Meet Jeffrey White. According to the Washington Post, Jeff, as the cool kids call him, is a student at the University of West Florida. Jeff purchases a flight to Albany. Maybe there was a sale for ‘Disney on Ice’ tickets, who knows. What matters is not why he bought the ticket, but rather, what dastardly political message … eh, greeting was on the ticket awaiting Jeff.

Note the highlighted section smartly and not-so-surreptitiously disposed like a vanity plate on Speaker John Boehner’s Lincoln Town Car: H8GAYS.

“At first I didn’t think I read it right,” says White. “I was worried that another customer might think I somehow picked that code. If I were a gay male, I might have thought that a Delta worker purposely gave me that code, and that would have made me extremely uncomfortable.”

Imagine the kerfuffle if he were gay. DAYUM! I digress. You were saying, Jeff…

White, however, stated that he was surprised Delta officials had not blocked the offending combination of letters and numbers from the company’s system. “I’m sure they removed many four-letter words that would be seen as offensive,” he stated. ”I’m surprised that ‘gays’ and ‘H8’ weren’t blocked as well.”

They weren’t blocked because of a mental lapse to all things of the world going on around whoever the now former schlep in ticketing that does that crap. After this went viral with the quickness, Delta went into its all-too-familiar crisis mode and had this say:

Delta has apologized for any “concern or misunderstanding” and explained that the codes are always computer-generated completely random. A Delta rep tells the Post that the airline will make every effort to prevent a similar combination of letters and numbers in the future.

Concern? Misunderstanding? Seriously?

The concern is H8GAYS (which GLAAD and NOH8 will be in touch about, I’m sure). This misunderstanding is that you think Jeff can’t read. “Misunderstanding.” Child, please. If any industry can’t afford another public smackdown, it’s the aviation industry. Suffice to say, I don’t think too many PR types in aviation will be taking Delta’s side as this imbroglio progresses in the public eye.

Maybe PR types anywhere will reconsider taking those travel website recommendations for its airline, come to think of it. Oh well, that’s the end of class. I’m taking the train because no boarding pass to read. Bye.

Publish date: December 18, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT