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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Qantas faces backlash over Twitter hash

Sydney:  Embattled Australian airline Qantas was Wednesday facing a social media storm after a publicity exercise on Twitter dramatically backfired, prompting an outpouring of negative comments.

As the airline works to win back the hearts of Australians after grounding its entire fleet last month over an industrial dispute, stranding tens of thousands of passengers around the world, it launched a Twitter competition.

"Tell us what is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include the hashtag QantasLuxury," it said, adding that the best tweets would win a gift pack including Qantas pyjamas and luxury amenity kit.

But the promotion quickly drew the wrong kind of attention, with tweets such as: "QantasLuxury means sipping champagne on your corporate jet while grounding the entire airline, country, customers & staff."

Another read: "Somewhere in Qantas HQ a middle-aged manager is yelling at a Gen Y social media 'expert' to make it stop."

The decision by chief executive Alan Joyce to ground the airline without notice after unions indicated they would step up strike action, sending the issue to national industrial tribunal Fair Work Australia, drew ire.

"Alan Joyce now seeking an injunction to ground Twitter due to QantasLuxury fiasco," read one.

Qantas has made regular use of Twitter, notably interacting with customers such as British writer Stephen Fry when he left his wallet onboard a jet, and the airline said it accepted all feedback, good and bad.

"We launched the competition with good intentions but clearly didn't expect the enormity of the response," a spokesman told AFP.

Joyce is spearheading the 91-year-old airline's brutal fight with unions representing pilots, engineers and ground staff as he seeks to reposition the carrier towards Asia, a move workers fear will cost jobs.

The parties were unable to resolve their disagreements during 21 days of negotiations overseen by Fair Work Australia and now head into arbitration.

The Twitter storm came as New South Wales state police said they were no longer investigating alleged death threats against Irish-born Joyce which emerged last month.

The airline did not detail the threats against Joyce but one reportedly read: "It's coming soon Paddy. You can't even see it."

New South Wales police, who had established a taskforce to investigate the matter, said Wednesday no further action was being taken.

"The investigation has been completed," a spokeswoman told AFP, without elaborating.

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