British Airways’ “insensitive” Indian Ocean advert

140328-ba-indian-oceanBritish Airways has apologised for an “inappropriate” advert encouraging people to “forget the commute and discover the Indian Ocean.”

In a statement, the airline says: “Our Indian Ocean advert contained pre-scheduled content that we recognise is inappropriate at this time. We’re sorry for any offence caused.”

Is it really inappropriate? Was an apology really necessary? Could anybody really be offended by it?

Don’t get me wrong – the loss of Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean is a tragedy for all concerned; and especially for the friends and relatives of those on board.

I don’t want to make light of that for one moment. But neither did the BA advert.

British Airlines flies to a number of destinations in the Indian Ocean, including Sri Lanka, Mauritius and the Maldives. Many people in those destinations will depend on those flights and the tourists and business people they bring in for their living. If visitor numbers decline, it will become harder for low-paid hotel staff to feed their families and enjoy the benefits of employment.

When terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Centre, nobody suggested that America should close for business; and I have no doubt that tourism organisations continued to advertise the delights of New York.

And it should be no different for countries in the Indian Ocean. It would have been insensitive if BA had devised an advert mocking the disaster; but they have not done this. Nor have they targeted the Indian Ocean because of the loss of the Malaysian plane.

Companies are learning to react fast to the mocking and false indignation of social media users. But sometimes they can react too fast. There is nothing wrong with BA’s Indian Ocean advertising campaign. If there is a problem, I suggest that it lies with those who see fault in it.


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