KLM’s Offensive World Cup Tweet (and What the REAL Outrage Is)

It’s not been a good quarter for airline twitter teams.

But ever since US Airways gave us the greatest online gift of the past five years and no one from the twitter team got fired, it seems like their jobs are safe at least.

After all, if US Airways didn’t fire the guy who used a Boeing 777 outside of normal operating parameters, then Delta couldn’t really fire anyone for sending out an arguably racist tweet about a giraffe (or at least one ignorant of its subject matter).

And if the World Cup ensnared Delta’s twitter team in controversy, others haven’t been spared either.

Buzzfeed highlighted KLM’s celebratory missive over the Netherlands’ victory over Mexico to advance to the quarter finals.

The tweet even featured a guy wearing a sombrero.

Mexico fans did not take kindly, lots of recriminations, the tweet has since been deleted.

I don’t think it was actually racist though perhaps in poor taste, and at a minimum someone needs to revoke KLM’s Photoshop privileges.

Much more significant is that in 2011 KLM got a $450 million loan guarantee from U.S. taxpayers via the Export-Import Bank.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The best response would be:
    KLM I hope your planes don’t fall as frequently as Robben!

  2. So you think the loan guarantee is more significant but you kept the title and most of the post about an offensive tweet? I’m just making sure I understood that correctly.

  3. Clearly, many Mexicans don’t have a sense of humor, as Top Gear has already demonstrated. It may be a nationalist comment (similar to Obama prattling on about how Americans are the greatest people on earth) but it’s not racist as one, it had nothing to do with race as it applies to all Mexicans wgatever their race and, two, it was a statement of fact that Mexico crashed out.

    On the ExIm Bank question, I don’t see how US taxpayer subsidies for Boeing is in any way related, however reprehensible they may be.

  4. I’m sad to see you continuing on with the giraffe = racism thing Gary. And I see nothing racist about KLM’s tweet. I’m of German heritage and would like to think I’d not find it offensive to have a picture of a sausage or lederhosen along with Wiedersehen. I don’t get the relevance of the bank loan to what I think is a pretty novel tweet.

  5. The loan guarantee is a disguised subsidy to Boeing. KLM can qualify for the loan without the Ex-Im bank, but it made the terms (and hence price) more attractive.

    You’ll try to position it as a government waste issue but it’s really a corporate welfare example. US taxpayers are providing not KLM but Boeing the benefit of this guarantee.

  6. MDTravel, I agree with you, but I bet Gary is much more comfortable pointing at a foreign organization (KLM) and playing to a “USA!” sentiment than pointing at Boeing and their government ‘sponsors’.

    Also I would like to see Gary feign this so-called outrage at a OneWorld carrier that also qualified for these Ex-Im bank subsidies. Or does he generally suppress negative OneWorld pieces?

  7. this is in poor taste, how?!?! it’s hilarious!

    enough with BS racism and insensitive remarks.

    no one knows what humor is, anymore.

  8. The tweet is not racist. Mexio is just pissed that they lost.

    ExIm may be just a disguised Boeing subsidy, but the Europeans do the same for Airbus so it’s hardly unfair. At least the airlines pay back the loans.

  9. @AS I have recently criticized Ex-Im bank more generally, and it doesn’t just subsidize airlines it subsidizes Boeing as the primary recipient of the subsidized purchases (other US companies like General Electric receive this corporate welfare as well).

    Both KLM and Boeing are beneficiaries of taxpayer-subsidized financing.

  10. I don’t think Mexico fans have much room to talk since their fans shout an anti gay slur at the opposing teams players many times over the course of a game. ESPN even apologized that viewers had to hear the Mexico fans shouting that. And secondly, it looked like about half of the Mexico fans in the stadium were dressed up in sombreros or decorative head dresses at the game. So what is wrong with this tweet?

  11. I’m South American and I thought it was funny. How can it be racist when even the Mexican fans in the stadium were wearing sombreros and fake handlebar mustaches? It’s a stereotype, yes, and one that Mexicans themselves find humor in and perpetuate — with the exception of a few humor-less ones, obviously.

    Now, it was clearly a Tweet that lacked any sportsmanship, but that’s a different story. And to be frank, trash-talk is part of the World Cup culture. You can’t take such comments in a vacuum.

    Finally, HUGE respect to the Mexican team who had a fantastic tournament and gave us (Brazil) a run for our money! And Chile, too — I was heartbroken that we sent them home. Torn between my team and a very worthy opponent.

  12. GE…= me angry. My little business pays more in taxes than GE does. That pisses me off. Either the taxes/incentives are good for all or they are not…be it in corporate or private citizenship. Me funding GE…really?

  13. 1. Humor is good when it is at somebody else’s expense and does not involve me personally or my ethnic group.
    2. An ethnic group may poke fun at itself but that does not give others a license to do the same at their cost.
    3. We laugh at many things in private, but to be politically correct, we feign displeasure when others do it in public. Sometimes the private thoughts bubble to the surface in our unguarded moments of exuberance.
    4. Some of us are too quick to draw the race card for every little thing to show our victim mentality in an attempt to make others feel bad about/sympathetic towards us.

  14. First of all, I am Mexican and I do not believe it is racist. However it is in very poor taste (and not funny at all) that a company that does business in Mexico for so many years issues a comment like that.

    The feelings that arise from a World Cup tournament may not be understood by many, but you do not make fun at someone having just lost a game. It is probably ok for an individual to do so, but not so from a corporation issuing such comment through their corporate channel of communication.

  15. guess what, JD… it happens.

    Americans still make fun of Chicago Cubs fans for not having won a championship in over 100 years.

    It’s a sport. You lost. Deal with it.

  16. The KLM tweet was funny, is not racist and I’m really sick of hearing attention-seeking whiners on the internet crying racism over every little thing. If France lost and the tweet said “Bon Voyage” it wouldn’t be any different.

  17. Given that KLM and Aeromexico are both in SkyTeam, I wonder if it’d be too hard for them to find a picture of a KLM jet and an Aeromexico jet together. Specifically, I’m thinking of one with the AM aircraft pushing back or taking off. Then the same text could have been used without the specific, potentially-offensive graphic.

  18. @mrredskin I know it happens, and Mexico lost. But again, KLM is a corporation doing business in Mexico. It is in poor taste, and corporations have a higher standard to be politically correct with their customers.

    You may not agree, but KLM does, that is why they issued a formal apology.

  19. I think gary is taking some inspiration from buzzfeed – next up, expect titles like –
    “You will not believe this tweet sent by KLM after…”
    “Did KLM just tweet a picture with this mexican…”

  20. @JD KLM doesn’t agree…an apology means absolutely nothing these days with pap like this. They were bullied by a bunch of whiny sniveling babies and found it easier to say ‘sorry’ than to call it what it is: ridiculousness.

    @mrredskin +1…well said. If the fans of any football (soccer) team get this bent out of shape then perhaps they should stick with the little league stuff where no score is kept, everyone wins, and no accomplishments can be celebrated.

    “very poor taste”, “not funny at all”…please…don’t over dramatize this.


  21. @mdtravel – Agree 100%!

    @JD – You lost. That means you have to deal with all the crap that goes with losing, including people making fun of you. If you don’t like it, tell the players to win next time.

  22. Mexicans just need to suck it up and not be sore losers. Also they need to get some sense of humor and go back to mowing my lawn.

  23. If that’s racist, then the sign of a woman wearing skirt is most definitely sexist at 50% of public restrooms…

  24. @ Brian L. I did not lose, I did not even play. A team lost, another won. That is what the game is about. Grow up.

    @Abdul about mowing your lawn, why don’t you go back to the Middle East where you belong? Allah waits for you there, not here

  25. @mdtravel As Ram said it is always funny when humor is at somebody else’s expense and does not involve me personally

  26. @JD,

    1. I’m not seeing connection here between lawn and Middle East. Check your logic.
    2. It’s funny how you decided where I’m from based on a random muslim name I used as my handle. 🙂 But sure, allah is the greatest. )) Whatever. (I was LMAO for about 1.38 minutes)

  27. @JD – You know damn well what I meant by saying, “You lost.” Sounds like you’re the one who needs to grow up. And if you really didn’t know what I meant, then you’re just dumb.

    And you’re complaining about insensitivity while telling Abdul to “go back to the Middle East where you belong.” That takes some big brass ones.

  28. @Jennifer – there are some things that are always funny. Long live Don Rickles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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