Not so long ago, a man on a plane was served a sandwich he didn’t like. He used Twitter – the real-time personal news feed, if you didn’t know – to alert the world to his displeasure. An airline employee on the ground saw the tweet, relayed the message to a flight attendant who minutes later asked the man what could be done to assuage his disappointment.
Welcome to travel 2012 style, if you’re doing it right.
Once seemingly impenetrable behemoths, airlines have become remarkably accessible thanks to social media, especially in the real-time world of Twitter. Most, if not all, airlines have Twitter feeds that allow customers to converse and, more important, solve problems in real time, whether for a large issue (stranded in an airport) or small (a lousy sandwich).
Stuart Greif, vice president of global travel for J.D. Power and Associates, said the sandwich story, which he said he discussed with an executive of the airline involved, shows social media’s benefits for the travelers who are savvy enough to use them.
“If a customer has a problem, the fastest way to address it has become social media,” Greif said. “Younger generations might never call into a call center. They might always go online and address these things in real time.”
Another platform could one day overtake Twitter, but for now it is the primary tool for real-time reaction from an industry that triggers anxiety and frustration like few others. Go to any of the major airlines’ Twitter feeds, and you will see (often entertaining) exchanges with frustrated passengers.
“We consider Twitter the canary in the coal mine,” said Morgan Johnston, JetBlue‘s social media strategist. “It’s not always fun to be called out publicly, but if there’s something really wrong with our operation, it shows up a lot faster, and we’re able to fix it.”Among the most aggressive Twitter users has been American Airlines, which has sent more messages than any of its competitors and which recently expanded its Twitter coverage from 6am to midnight, up from 7 am to 8pm. The ultimate goal is staffing 24 hours a day, as several other airlines already do.
In our region, Qantas leads the way with 17,000 tweets published, though its social media strategy has occasionally backfired.
Strange Random Anger Quote:
“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” ― Ambrose Bierce
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