Can Delta’s quick response to luggage gaffe minimize the damage?

The airline is taking a beating for charging U.S. service members an extra baggage feel, but winning accolades for its fast response. Question is: Does it matter?

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Every minute it takes to hold conference calls, sit in meetings, get legal review, and craft official responses is a minute in which thousands of uncomplimentary messages can be distributed to millions of consumers.

On Wednesday, Delta Airlines has shown how it can be done.

The previous day, Army Staff Sgt. Robert O’Hair uploaded a quick-and-dirty video to YouTube expressing unhappiness with Delta. The video, shot aboard a flight from Baltimore to Atlanta with what seems to be the video camera on a mobile phone, expresses displeasure with Delta’s baggage policies for military personnel.

Members of O’Hair’s unit, returning from Afghanistan, had military authorization for four pieces of luggage each, but upon check-in at BWI, Delta’s personnel told them the policy for coach limited them to three bags. They each had to pay $200 out of their own pockets for their fourth bags, a total of $2,800.

It no longer requires media savvy to know you can gain traction with a story like this by engaging the online community. (Or, from another perspective, pretty much everybody is media-savvy these days.) The video had more than 200,000 views less than 24 hours later, and it has amassed more than 1,800 “likes” and 2,000 comments.

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