These 3 Airlines Got PWNed on Social Media (Ouch!)

by Team Caffeine · 0 comments

Airline Social Media

How do you become a millionaire? Make a billion dollars and then buy an airline. – Warren Buffett

Buffett learned from experience – he got burned when he bought shares in US Airways worth over $300 million. In five years, they’d lost 75% of their value.

Buffett joked: “If a capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk back in the early 1900s, he should have shot Orville Wright.”

Well, maybe shooting one of the Wright brothers is taking it a bit far. But airlines are tricky businesses to run at the best of times. Little wonder they so often lose money.

Your customers are tired and often grumpy. They’ve often got up early (or stayed up late) for their flight. Then they had to line up for check-in. Then security – which is simultaneously terrifying and humiliating. Then they’ve had to fight their way on board to find a cramped seat where they’ll have to sit for several hours.

Not even the food is special.

Hook that up with the fact that you’re dealing with people’s dreams. Vacations they’ve saved years to take. Trips across country to reunite with relatives or friends. Travel to a make-or-break business deal.

Airlines have a tough job on their hands.

Would you want to be an airline? I’m not sure I would.

But if I was, I’d be careful to avoid these mistakes.

1. Ryanair’s “Middle Gimp”

James Lockley and his newlywed wife had spent two hours stuck in traffic en route to Stansted Airport in London, England. They were flying out to their own wedding reception in central Europe.

Despite the delay, they arrived at the airport an hour before their Ryanair flight was due to depart.

Yet due to Ryanair staff behaving incompetently, the plane boarded without them.

They were left stranded – and furious – in London, while the guests at their own wedding reception partied without them.

Lockley’s revenge? A letter of complaint to Ryanair that he published to Facebook. Ryanair staff are characterized as “Vacant”, “Not That Bright” and “Middle Gimp”.

Middle Gimp – supposedly a customer services manager – showed no compassion o their plight.

Here’s the story:

Middle Gimp had clearly listen hard at Ryan Air Middle Gimp school as he managed to take two perfectly calm and sane adults and in a matter of seconds reduce them to angry people considering violence.

‘Check in opens 3 hours before the flight’ he barked repeatedly as if it was the answer to every question in life. We tried to ask Middle Gimp direct questions about why it was necessary for us to miss the flight because the Child had forgotten to do his job, and Vacant had forgotten to do hers.

‘Why is this our fault, and why should we miss the flight because Ryan Air staff have admitted they made errors?.

‘Check in opens three hours before the flight’

‘Do you acknowledge we have just cause for complaint as we tried to do the right thing and the only reason we are not on the plane is because of communication failures with Ryan Air Staff?’

‘Check in opens three hours before the flight’

‘What colour are my trousers?’

‘Check in opens three hours before the flight’

You can read the full letter here. At the time of writing, it’s clocked up close to 70,000 shares.

Ouch.

Worse, Ryanair have just ignored it.

Ryanair gets by on being cheap. People use Ryanair because they want to save money. And maybe that’s a strategy that will always work for them.

But here’s the rub.

People today expect more of companies, especially when it comes to customer service. Companies who fulfill that expectation are rewarded for their effort.

Research shows that seven in 10 (71%) consumers are likely to recommend a brand to others, if they experience a quick and effective customer service response on social media. That figure drops to 19% for consumers who don’t receive a response.

2. United Breaks Guitars

Canadian musician Dave Carroll was flying from Halifax to Omaha, Nebraska to play at a gig. He checked his guitar into hold.

During a layover at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, he overheard another passenger exclaim “they’re throwing guitars outside”.

When Carroll arrived in Omaha, he discovered that his $3,500 Taylor guitar had suffered severe damage.

Carroll tried to claim compensation, but his claim was repeatedly rejected because he had failed to submit the claim within the “standard 24-hour timeframe.”

After nine months of frustrating phone calls and failed negotiations, Carroll changed tactics. Instead of trying to deal with United’s customer service team, he wrote a song about his experience.

“United Breaks Guitars” was an instant YouTube hit, clocking up 150,000 views in a single day.

United immediately contacted Carroll to “make what happened right” – though they only offered $3,000 in compensation (Carroll took it, and gave the money to charity).

Fortunately, Taylor guitars stepped into the breach, offering Carroll two Taylor guitars.

And “United Breaks Guitars” is still Dave Carroll’s biggest hit, with over 14 million views on YouTube.

What does this show? People power. Your customers have a greater voice than ever before – so don’t dismiss them when they come to you with problems.

3. #QantasLuxury

Back in 2011, Australian airline Qantas unintentionally kicked off a Twitter comedy hour.

Qantas asked people to tweet about their dream luxury inflight experience using the hashtag #QantasLuxury.

Did people start sharing their flying fantasies?

Nope, they didn’t..

Instead, they used the hashtag as a batsignal to get the attention of Qantas customer services.

Tweets included:

My #QantasLuxury experience would be no matter what time or duration of the flight a proper meal is served a cookie is not a meal its a joke

A complimentary cheap hotel room because your cynical airline left you stranded in Adelaide, of all places. Adelaide. #QantasLuxury

A plane that doesn’t have an exploding engine! #QantasLuxury

The lesson? If you’re going to ask your customers to dream better, then make sure your current offering is already damn good.

The Takeaway

What’s to learn from all of these? Your customers matter. Listen to them and treat them with respect – and they’ll do the same in return. Ignore customer complaints at your peril!

Lori R Taylor is the founder and executive editor of Social Caffeine. In 2009 she started her own direct response focused social media agency, REV Media Marketing LLC, coining the phrase given by her young son, “You bring the rain, we’ll make it pour.” Follow Lori on Twitter.

David is our acting editor. He’s British, but we don’t hold that against him.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ 

Book Cover Test

How much money are you losing because of poor website design?

Conversions are where websites pay off. You must see your site as your laboratory! If you're a blogger might want to gain more subscribers. If you run an ecommerce site you want more sales. Maybe you just need more leads for your business. Whatever the action you want people to take your job is to make it easy. Help them help you. This free report is the marketing glue you need to fix your funnel.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: