Delta PR Machine pushing back against bag fee lawsuit

2015-08-17 by Ronn Torossian

Delta Baggage Fee PR


Detla Airlines LogoNow an airline is catching heat on a federal level. Delta Air Lines was recently in federal court, where a judge ordered the company to cough up $2.7 million for failing to produce information in a lawsuit related to baggage fees. This order was ON TOP OF another $4.8 million in penalties previously handed down.

According to the judge, Delta dragged their feet, taking far too long to produce the emails and allow them to be entered into evidence. US District Court Judge Timothy Batten blamed Delta’s “ineptitude and missteps” for unacceptable delays.

“Ineptitude” is not the word consumers want attached to their air travel provider. But that’s not the worst news for Delta.

According to the court filings, a group of passengers said that Delta and AirTran conspired to impose baggage fees. According to the suit, the two competitors put their heads together and decided to each begin charging fees for initially checked baggage.

The claim may seem spurious, but since Delta collected more than $860 million in checked-bag fees last year, consumers are paying attention. Bag fees continue to be a hot – and contentious – topic in the air travel industry. Consumers hate the fees, which they see as unfair taxes on air travel. Airlines argue the fees are necessary to remain profitable. Neither side seems willing to bend.

This could be a classic case of something new that people just haven’t become accustomed to. Nearly every fee or tax we have today was initially vigorously opposed but eventually accepted as “normal” by a generation who knew no different. There may come a time when consumers don’t bat an eye about paying a baggage fee. But that is not today.

However, the debate also offers an opportunity. Competing airlines have worked to win consumer loyalty by axing or reducing bag fees. For some, it worked. But only if the airline didn’t have other downsides consumers hated more. That’s an important lesson in today’s Instant PR culture. One-off gimmicks might put butts in the seats, but that might not pay off if those customers don’t enjoy the experience.

They may never tweet about not having to pay a bag fee … but you can start looking at airline complaints now on Twitter and never run out of reading material.

Ronn Torossian: Insights from a Native New Yorker and CEO of 5WPR

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 250 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities