When Social Media takes a 180 degree turn

The airline lost one of my bags… Well at least they didn’t lose all of them.

(Got pretty angry and upset, could’ve pulled my hairs out, because that bag had the important stuff – all of them do actually)

So what do you do?

Go to the customer service desk and hope someone can help me. Yes – almost. Good news: they will do their best to find my lost bag. Bad news: They don’t know when I will have my lost bag back.

Filled in an endless paper. Noted my address, phone number and what not. Went home and complained to my family that the airline had lost my bag with-the-important-stuff-in-it. What else could I do but wait?

That was back in the day when we had basically no Social Media platforms, remember?

Nowadays, almost everyone is on the net. Sharing their everyday joy and crisis has been made much more easier. People have gotten used to using social media and companies are using social media for customer service, next to wanting to gain revenues from it.

Using social media for customer service has become an extra aid for both the customer and the company and has proven to be beneficial, some companies even have a whole army of employees focused on a social media platform. Having a whole team available for social media is even more beneficial when a crisis hits a company. For example, when the ash cloud became a major crisis for airlines, KLM jumped at the opportunity to use social media as an extra end for customer service and it worked really, really well.

Those days when a customer service issue was only communicated with the company’s contact and the customer are gone. Have an issue with a company? That will be aired to everyone that will want to hear about it. Companies are – and have to be – aware of this. Things can go wrong and in aviation, which is an international business, things could go really wrong.

Whether or not an organization chooses to use social media, one way or the other, the customer will seek out a way of communicating an issue. Customers want to be heard and some hope social media will increase their chances of having an issue fixed quickly. But, how companies choose to respond on social media has a large impact on how quickly an issue will settle down or how quickly they may lose face.

Here are some social media issues that have lately happened in the aviation sector:

Boycott Spirit Airlines

The ‘Boycott Spirit Airlines’ Facebook Page was created in 2010 when Spirit Airlines started charging for checked in baggage and is currently at about 38,000 likes on Facebook. Customers are not happy with the extra fees that are put on carry on luggage, checked-in luggage, the customer service, the leg room and the ticket pricing. But, what – according to customers – was the last strike, was that a dying man wanted a refund to be able to donate it to the Wounded Warriors and this was not possible, resulting in enraged military personnel, war veterans and other civilians.

Fox News reported:
The update from company spokeswoman Misty Pinson, when asked Monday if the company had reconsidered, appears to have grounded any hope that Jerry Meekins, 76, of Clearwater, Fla., might get his money back. Meekins bought the ticket to Atlantic City last month so he could see his daughter before she had surgery of her own. But when his esophageal cancer left his immune system too ravaged for travel, all the airline offered him was another ticket.

“What are they going to do?” Meekins asked the Tampa Bay Times. “Fly my casket up to Atlantic City?”

Spirit Airlines is a United States ‘ultra low cost carrier’ headquartered in Miramar, Florida. Spirit Airlines has chosen not to use social media and I am not aware of what their response is to the ‘Boycott Spirit Airlines’ page.

Stop KLM charging €400 for a board bag

The ‘Stop KLM charging €400 for a board bag’ Facebook Page was created on October 2012 and says:

KLM is charging €400 round trip for a board bag… How crazy is that! If you are a golf player all the doors go wide open but they close the door for us kiters/surfers. I think KLM doesn’t know that kitesurfing/surfing is the biggest growing water sport. Let’s see how many kiters/surfer we actually are and show that to KLM in hope they will change there baggage policy quick.

Currently at about 4,000 likes, surfers (of all kinds) are responding and if they weren’t, are now aware of the extra charges. A white list and a black list have been created pointing out the airlines you should and should not travel with if you are wanting to transport a board bag.

KLM is an airline that uses social media at its best and has thought out social media campaigns. However, I don’t think they – or anyone for that matter – were expecting this. Nevertheless, KLM has not ignored the Facebook Page and thus its customers and has responded to a few of their questions:

October 8th, 2012: As we indicated on Friday, we have taken another look at your query concerning prices for transporting surfboards. We can inform you that new fees for transporting surfing equipment will be introduced on 19 October 2012. There will be diffe

rent price categories for different board types and sizes. More information is available at http://klmf.ly/qqmXs2.

Excess baggage fees – KLM.com
If your e-ticket specifies a number of pieces of baggage, you may take this amount of baggage (a maximum of two pieces).

They have chosen to handle customer complaints, coming from any medium, appropriatly.

Stop AirEuropa charging €300 for a board bag

The inspiration for ‘Stop KLM charging €400 for a board bag’ Facebook Page, is also directed to another airline’s fees for a board bag, but however, only has 176 likes since October 2012. AirEuropa uses no social media platforms and have also not responded to the questions on the Facebook Page.

Tiger Airways – customer service?

Well, one customer, a frequent business traveler, got really angry about his lost baggage… In this case, the social media platform that was used was twitter and it wasn’t a petition, but more of a complaint. This passenger anxiously tweeted his issue with Tiger Airways starting at about 3:00 AM on the 10th of April 2011 and continued over the next 2 days, either directly mentioning @TigerAirwaysSG or using the hashtag #tigerairways or both.

With no response from Tiger Airways, the customer continued tweeting about his ‘very unpleasant experience’ with Tiger Airways.


When Southwest Airlines achieved the 3 million fan mark on Facebook, they offered a one-day promotion, a ‘Flash Sale’ with 50% off certain flights to celebrate this milestone. Doesn’t sound bad does it? Well, lots of customers also liked the idea and responded to it. I mean lots of customers. Which, overwhelmed Southwest Airlines causing the website to be a little overwhelmed as well. The result? Customers who liked the idea and used the promotion were charged anywhere from a few times to more than a dozen additional times for the exact same flight. Thinking about your bank account now? Well, if it was you, it would have probable been empty. If customers used a credit card, these were maxed out due to the multiple charges. That people were angry, would be an understatement. The customer service (phone customer service that is) was jammed, so the customers took their complaints to social media and you can guess the rest of the story. Once the airline realized how big the issue was becoming they posted an explanation on their Facebook page and handeling the customer complaints as much as their man power allowed them too.

More on the matter can be read on Simpliflying.

Think before you tweet

A retweet from British Airways was not like any usual retweet and turned out to become quite famous as well. This retweet wouldn’t have caused such a stir if maybe the right clicks were actually clicked. A retweet, originally from @JaeLadd read: @British_Airways Fuck you. Fuckin cancelling my flight! #bunchofcunts


The retweet seemed like a usual complaint where British Airways would look in to the issue, but it took a different turn when something was added after @British_Airways Fuck you. Fuckin cancelling my flight! #bunchofcunts” What followed, within the text of the retweet was “go back to your fucking country you gook”That isn’t something British Airways would say… British Airways responds to the retweet saying that their account was hacked, but it seems more like a retweet error (which we have all had) from someone with not that much knowledge on how Twitter Works. In the end, British Airways acknowledged they had made a mistake, but customers had already spread the word.

What went wrong? What was clicked, or what wasn’t clicked? It’s an honest mistake, but being an airline, overlooking what is tweeted is crucial and that no jokes should be made because an ‘enter’ button makes a joke that is meant to be internally funny, seconds away from becoming global. We all have jokes with colleagues about, well, everything…just make sure your computer, and whatever social media platform, is very far away from the conversation.

Social Media as a customer service

What I noticed is that low cost carriers (most of them) do not use any social media platform and some of them don’t even have a customer service that is easy to reach. This may be due to keeping the costs low, which is true, but nowadays even low cost carriers should realize the power customers have been given of either enhancing a brand’s image or ruining it. Customer loyalty does not only exists for the full service carriers, or premium airlines, it now also exists for the low cost carriers. Moreover, customers are not only price sensitive, they also search the net before traveling, they want a nice flight and thus compare budget brands or the premium brands. And, as can be seen in the past events with social media, customers want a reachable and good customer service. Social Media platforms should not only be used for promoting products and promotions, they should also be used as an effective customer service, even for low cost carriers, there are ways to monitor what is said about their brand on various social media platform and respond to their customers. Customers are, in a few words – very loud today.


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