Singapore Airlines A380 Emergency Landing in Baku: Analyzing user behavior on social media, and how to deal with a crisis

On the 6th of January 2014, a Singapore Airlines A380 was diverted to Baku, Azerbaijan due to a pressurization problem that caused an emergency descent and a lengthy wait at the airport for the passengers.

A comment on a popular aviation forum about the incident cheekily outlined the steps pilots take during an emergency:

1. Put their oxygen masks on (at 38,000 ft the pilots would pass out within 18 seconds).
2. Descend as quickly as possible to 10,000 ft
3. Communicate with air traffic control to avoid a collision as they descend
4. Find the nearest airport with wi-fi to land at so that the passengers can post their photos on Twitter

While the airline worked to bring a replacement aircraft and accommodate the passengers, we had an opportunity to analyze users’ behavior on social media. In previous case studies such as the Asiana crash in SFO or the Nairobi Airport fire we focused more on the dynamics of the crises. On this occasion, we decided to place a stronger focus on users’ behavior on social media, and the multiple personas that airlines need to be prepared to deal with in the age of the connected traveller.

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 What happens on Twitter…makes the news!

In the Asiana incident many were surprised by seeing passengers taking time to tweet pictures of the plane they had just escaped from, and the media picking them within seconds. In this case the sharing trend continued. For the first time, we saw the appearance of oxygen mask selfies.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/k1ump/status/420041395131666432/”]

Although this trend is not unique to aviation and the word “selfie” was recently chosen as word of the year by the Oxford Dictionary, the importance of over-sharing is something of great importance to airlines. This is due to the fast-evolving nature of airline and airport related incidents and the great interest they generate in both media and general public.

While the selfie made the news first, there were a lot of other people participating in the online chatter, on multiple platforms – from the complainer, to the true advocate, helping others out by answering questions on SIA’s Facebook page. We’ve profiled all of them in our case study deck here. And we hope you find it insightful.

How did Singapore Airlines perform during the emergency landing?

Singapore Airlines lived up to its reputation as one of the best airlines in the world. A brand’s character is tested when things go wrong, and Singapore Airlines did fairly well. The incident news was promptly posted on Facebook, where a lot of the interaction took place with the airline. There were frequent updates informing passengers and others of the latest situation.

The key to dealing with a crisis situation well is to be prepared.  We hope that this presentation helps airline and airport managers to better plan and prepare for future crises. Should you need more help, please do get in touch, we’re always happy to help out, or further enhance in-company skills through our masterclasses and consulting services.

Editor’s note: 

This article had earlier stated that negative comments were deleted from SIA’s Facebook page during the incident. We have since received a statement from the airline’s spokesperson, Nicholas Ionides, that this wasn’t the case. He clarifies, “we do not delete negative comments from our Facebook page, and only delete those that are racist, offensive, include bad language, etc. We maintain an open wall on our Facebook page and comments are certainly not “moderated” before they go up.”

Full Disclosure: Singapore Airlines had previously attended the IATA Airline Social Media strategy course, developed and delivered by SimpliFlying.


  • Download the latest “SimpliFlying Airline Crisis Guide” – An overview of 6 types of airlines crises concerning social media, including real-world case studies from recent years.
  • Preview Crisis Communications Quarterly Report – An in-depth report of the 15 most important airline crises and disruptions from the latest quarter, assessing how they were handled, and how they could have been handled better.
SimpliFlying

SimpliFlying

SimpliFlying is the leading consulting firm that specialises in aviation marketing and innovation. We are one of the largest in the world, having worked with over 80 airlines and airports globally. Headquartered in Singapore, we also have presences in Canada, Spain and the UK. What we offer – consulting, training and reports – is derived from insights derived while working deeply within the industry. We intensively research trends, question assumptions and apply them to the realities of the aviation industry. Our growing list of clients includes American Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Turkish Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Toronto Pearson Airport. If you're keen to tap our expertise, email us at helpmesoar@simpliflying.com
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