How Jetstar can use PR to win Australia’s airline war

It’s been a rough few years for Australian airlines as they battled border closures, exorbitant profit losses, and more scandals than you could count. But in the war of winning back the public’s trust, Jetstar has consistently been in last place for quite some time.

While the country’s most recognisable budget airline has never had a flawless reputation, for a long time consumers were happy to compromise on small luxuries such as legroom and in-flight entertainment in exchange for more affordable and accessible flights. Now, the tide has changed, with Jetstar’s market share falling 5% in September 2022.

The good news is that Jetstar has a unique opportunity to get ahead in the loyalty race. With the right strategy and careful communication, it could be the first airline to regain trust and win back affection from Australians.

Reassurance works wonders

In times of crisis, many brands default to arrogance or overpromotion in an attempt to convince people to stick by them. This rarely works, however, as it can very easily come across as patronising and alienate the customer.

Instead, Jetstar should be switching to reassurance mode. Reassurance mode tells customers that you’re aware of the problem and that their trust is important to you. It’s about communicating honestly and openly by saying, “this is why you’re safe. This is how we’ve learnt from those mistakes. This is what we’ve done to make improvements and help you have peace of mind going forward.”

Consumers are smarter than transparent tactics that seek to distract or overcompensate for mistakes. When you address the elephant in the room and use it as an opportunity to grow, you can start to win back respect.

Honesty is the best policy

It’s important for Jetstar to acknowledge that many of the highly publicised issues surrounding their service are not going to be resolved quickly. A great example of this is the December 2022 Airline On Time Performance Statistics that named Jetstar as the airline with the highest cancellation rate and the lowest on-time arrival rate, at 7.2% and 62% respectively. 

In this scenario, honesty is the best policy. Jetstar should be focusing on communicating with consumers in a way that tackles the problem head-on without falling into the trap of over-promising. It’s always better to admit to consumers when you’re working on certain issues and committing to creating better experiences across the board. Silence won’t make a problem go away, but neither will deflecting in a way that is perceived as uncaring about consumer experiences.

Stand back and listen

One of the most important things Jetstar should be doing right now is social listening. This will let the team know how much has been said about the negative incidents that have been reported and whether they’ve been doing a good enough job of addressing them. 

Measuring and understanding the sentiment surrounding your brand is pivotal. Brands like Jetstar should be doing their research and quantifying the attitudes consumers have towards them, as this is the only way they can tell whether PR tactics have been restoring confidence and trust over time.

Jetstar has a long way to go, but with consistency and patience, it can win back confidence. If it does a good job and can bank up some excellent outcomes, winning confidence will lead to trust, and trust will lead to loyalty.

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