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26 Apr



Part 1: Airlines Hurt By Social Media

April 26, 2011 | By | 4 Comments

In an industry full of issues and complications one would think customer service would be very important.  The airline industry has proven to be a great training ground for social media “No No’s”.   United Airlines began their social media struggles early when Dave Carroll’s United Breaks Guitars (over 10 million views) was posted on YouTube.  They saw first hand how quickly a small problem can escalate into a full on PR nightmare.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Delta Airlines had the most complaints filed against it with the DOT  in 2010.

Image: Reuters/ Shawna Malvini Redden

Southwest Airlines, an airline known for having good customer service nearly had a plane go down recently because of poor inspections and maintenance.  They added insult to injury by posting a statement on their website a day after the incident, claiming that a few cancellations and delays had occurred (nearly 600 cancellations and over 2000 flight delays during a 2 day period).  Realizing their mistake the statement on the website was quickly removed.  This is not first time this issue was raised, in March of 2008 Southwest Airlines was accused by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of having over 100 planes not fit for flying. Obviously not much has changed in 3 years.

We all know that most trips to the airport are not pleasant but people with horrible accounts tend to share them online. American Airlines has become the recent victim of their own social media disaster because of slack customer service and poor social media monitoring.

Obviously some passengers have a much bigger reach online, like Erick Schonfeld Co-Editor of TechCrunch (Erick: over 31k; TechCrunch:  about 1.7 million followers on Twitter).  He recently shared his horrid travel nightmare from Easter weekend, in a blog featured on entitled “@AmericanAir, You Suck” (Posted 4/24/2011).

In short his family was severely delayed for bad weather on their way to Chicago from New York on the trip out (took 8 hours longer than expected). Then on the return trip, due to a mess by American Airlines (a crew was not available) their flight was cancelled and they were in Chicago another night. When they showed up for the red-eye flight the next morning they faced more delays and Schonfeld’s seat was missing a cushion. He attempted to get help via twitter and never received anything after following up this tweet from AA:

His blog post has been retweeted almost 900 times, liked by almost 200 people on Facebook, and has over 50 comments showing the reach one person can have.  Large companies like the airlines, need to realize that one person has the opportunity to reach millions on the web.  Proper social media involvement and monitoring can solve issues like American Airlines had before it escalates.

Part 2, a follow up blog later this week will discuss how Airlines are successfully using and benefitting from social media. Share any comments you have on this post and stay tuned for the second slice on airlines.


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