Blog/Brand: Is it better to ask for permission or forgiveness?

15th May 2020

We’re living in unprecedented times, where only those whose jobs are considered absolutely necessary are allowed to go to work. Shops are closed. Gyms are closed. Pubs are closed.

People across the globe are being told that they’re only allowed to leave the relative safety of their homes if it’s to exercise – maintaining their physical and mental wellbeing – or to get essential supplies.

Never before have we experienced something so crippling, emotionally, socially and financially. Every one of us.

Perhaps the industry that has been hardest hit is the airline industry – both regional and global. People aren’t travelling for business or leisure. Airports are deserted. Aeroplanes are grounded. Companies who – in better times – employ thousands of staff globally, and whose staff put in hundreds of thousands of man hours daily have ground to a complete halt. Flights are universally cancelled. And they’re finding it difficult.

Virgin Atlantic and British Airways – the UK’s two transatlantic carriers have both furloughed staff and announced that they’ve no choice but to make mass redundancies. They’ve both applied for governmental loans to allow them to survive the lockdown in a position where they’re able to resume once people begin to travel again.

Something that is likely to have a lasting legacy for airlines is their seemingly universal reluctance to fulfil their legal obligation to refund customers when flights have been cancelled.

Social media is awash with disgruntled customers who’ve had their flights cancelled at the very last minute when it was clear that it would be impossible to fly weeks and months in advance.

And once their flight has been cancelled, they’ve been shoe-horned into accepting a voucher or a rescheduled flight, and every obstacle conceivable being placed in the way of them and a refund.

The problem is that if airlines were to offer instant and blanket refunds, some of them would go out of business overnight.

And so, while undoubtedly significant and lasting damage is being done by airlines opting to use cloak and dagger techniques in order to avoid or delay refunding customers, the alternative is that they won’t have a brand to worry about.

If there’s anything that’s worth sacrificing the integrity of your brand over, it has to be survival, right?

As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Maddison Creative 2020