Zonua website makers logo

Why are Airlines so bad at Social Media?


4th November 2013

Google Penguin does not like spammy backlinks

Compaints happen. Things go wrong. Usually, massive companies are pretty good at dealing with complaints through Social Media. Sometimes, they aren't.

  1. United Airlines, 2008

    (As mentioned already on Social Media Faux Pas, the long and short of it is that United Airlines baggage handlers apparently severely damaged a guitar owned by passenger David Carroll, due to rough handling.

    David claims he complained to staff, filed a complaint, and was told he was ineligible for compensation. After nine months, he gave up trying to sort his problem with United Airlines, and he wrote a song, which he uploaded it to YouTube:

    . . . Which has over thirteen MILLION views on YouTube, was a hit on iTunes, was featured in Time Magazine and various websites.

    There was a Measurable Impact on United Airlines

    United Airlines' shares plummeted by 10% within 4 days of the video being uploaded.

  1. British Airways, 2013

    British Airways passenger, Hasan Syed, was upset that British Airways lost his luggage. He noticed that a lot of disgruntled customers already used Twitter to publicly complain about brands.

    Hasan took this a step further.

    He took out an ad on Twitter . . . basically this is a promoted tweet, that he paid to get it more exposure on Twitter. Hasan promoted it for British Airways followers.

    "Don't fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous."

    When it comes to Crisis Mangement in Social Media, the Golden Rule is to respond immediately. Otherwise, the only voice about the brand is the negative one. Loads of blogs and articles were written at the time (including Mashable's article, which still simply mentions that British Airways hadn't responded at the time of writing), and, since British Airways took eight hours to respond, it meant that their positive response got diluted massively by the negative tweets that Hasan had sent.

    Hasan sent out his promoted tweet just before 8pm. British Airways only check their tweets from 9-5pm. For a brand as big as British Airways, this isn't okay. In fact, overworked business owners and small companies manage to do better than this. You don't have to be sitting watching Twitter . . . Hasan did tag them in the tweet, which means they got an instant notification. @BritishAirways need to take a leaf out of @KLM's book. They provide 24/7 customer service on Twitter, and they do it well.

  2. Air Canada, October 2013

    Air Canada are in the dog house at the moment - pun intended - for their insensitive email to a television station, which of course got publicised. If email can be included in Social Media, then this story belongs here.

    October 7th, 2013: Larry, the greyhound, went missing on a flight to new owners, after his former owner passed away. A local television station, CBS-TV, were featuring the story, and emailed Air Canada. Air Canada replied that they were doing their best (quick reply - great), but when the television station replied, asking for more information, the Air Canada spokesman responded with;

    "I think I would just ignore, it is local news doing a story on a lost dog. Their entire government is shut down and about to default and this is how the U.S. media spends its time."

    This mail was apparently meant for another spokesman within the company, but of course it's quite a mess up by a spokesman.

    However the scarey thing about this kind of thing, is that it's probably the easiest faux-pas to make, which is to send an email meant for a friend/colleague to the wrong person. As you're reading this, can you think of a message you sent to the wrong person?

    Air Canada however, were quick to apologise though.

    The story doesn't even have a happy ending. Larry was knocked down, and had to be put down by a local vet.

  3. American Airlines, October 2013

    Irish Daily Mail Features editor, Gillian Fitzpatrick (@GillianFitz on Twitter) was checked-in and ready to board a flight from Dublin to Chigago with a six month old baby, on 26th October 2013. The flight was cancelled, and Gillian was quite inconvenienced. She had to return dutyfree, and queued two and a half hours to rebook. She eventually got a BA flight, thirty hours after the scheduled flight, with no vegetarian meal, and no infant cot, which is a MASSIVE inconvenience, as anyone who has flown with a baby will know.

    But, okay, we all know things go wrong with airlines. I once sat on a plane for twelve hours in Chicago, as the plane kept frosting over, and then missing it's take-off time.

    Gillian seems to have been treated particularly badly. She claims she got no food during the delay, which is not a bonus, it's actually a legal requirement for airlines to do so: For long haul flights, when the delay is greater than four hours, your air carrier should provide you with written information about your entitlements and also with care and assistance.

    Care and assistance consists of:

    • meals and refreshments (in reasonable relation to the waiting time)
    • hotel accommodation (where an overnight stay becomes necessary)
    • transport between the airport and the hotel (where necessary)
    • 2 telephone calls/ faxes/ emails.

    If the airline does not provide the above assistance to you and you are forced to make your own arrangements, you should retain all your receipts as you will be entitled to reimbursement of your expenses.reference: FlightRights.ie

    So why is Social Media relevant here? Gillian emailed American Airlines on 30th October, during US office hours. She got an automated reply. By 4th November, she still did not reply, so she did what savvy people now do, to get attention from big brands - which was to tweet the company itself. @AmericanAir, which is American Airlines responded almost immediately. I'll let you be the judge of their Customer Service here:

    Now that's a real WTF moment for me. Customer Relations responds to all email within 60 days. I literally thought this was a joke when I noticed Gillian's retweet. That's @AmericanAir's policy, and they make no apologies for it. To say that to a customer with a genuine grievance is the Social Media equivalent of spitting on their face.

Which begs the question, why are some Airlines so bad at addressing complaints through Social Media? Is it because they get so many complaints?

Dorcas RĂ©amonn

Hi, I'm Dorcas. I make websites. I lecture in Digital Marketing and related stuff in the UCD Smurfit School, and also work with the UCD Innovation Academy. I love education, learning and all things creative, which could cover anything from coding to filmography to dancing! I take photos (personal Insta @dorcasz). I do consultancy. I do talks. I've written popular books on WordPress (available here and and here. Visit my personal site here.

Facebook Twitter Zonua on Skype Zonua on Pinterest Zonua on Vine Zonua on LinkedIn Google Plus Instagram

comments powered by Disqus