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Don't Tweet and Fly
By: Jennifer Graber
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We all have aired complaints on social media, in one way or another. Perhaps a restaurant provided a less-than-stellar experience that prompted us to reward them with a scathing Facebook review. Or, maybe a shipping company damaged a package and we posted a quick photo on Instagram. Maybe we had to wait an excessive amount of time on hold with tech support only to be disconnected, so we complained online. Whatever the case may be, we all have been there. If we get a reply or resolution, well, that is a great bonus. One man got a little more than he bargained for when he did what any normal person would do.
A gentleman was flying Southwest Airlines with his two children. He also was a part of the airline’s A-List program, which gives members benefits like “priority boarding privileges.” When the gentleman set out to use said privilege he found out that the skies were not so friendly. A Southwest gate agent permitted priority boarding for the man, but not his two children (who are ages 6 and 9). The gentleman pointed out that his children were usually able to board with him. He was not pleased and took to Twitter. The gentleman called out the gate agent by name in a tweet and coupled it with a statement about her being the rudest gate agent ever.
After the passengers made their way to their seats, an announcement was made asking for the gentleman and his children to de-board the plane, at which time the gate agent asked the man to delete his tweet or the cops would be called and he would not be allowed back on the flight. The agent’s reasoning for asking the man to do so was that she felt threatened and did not appreciate her real name being used on social media. The man’s children became upset during the confrontation and made him feel as if his only choice was to delete the tweet. Once he did, they were allowed to re-board the plane.
After all was said and done, Southwest offered the gentleman $50 vouchers for him and each of his children. The airline company has also stated that it is further reviewing the matter and will take any future action as necessary. But the man made it clear that he couldn't care less to ever fly on Southwest again because of the attitude of the company and gate agent.
What is interesting here is that the company refused to serve a customer who gave it negative feedback. Understandably, companies are allowed to respond and/or defend themselves. That should not detract from the customer, however. Was extra precaution taken simply because it was an airline and you can never be too careful these days? No threatening language or curse words were used in the gentleman’s tweet, so the response from the gate agent and company was very interesting. Is this the sign of us coming into an era in which negative customer feedback results in lack of service?

Shockingly, contain your eye rolling — the customer is not always right. But when the feedback and experience are genuine and lack distortion, why should that not be shared via social media? And why should it also not be used as a tool to better the company? So the lesson today kiddies, is….do not tweet and fly.

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About the Author
Jennifer Graber is a Business Development Manager and marketing enthusiast. Her specific interests include branding, consumer behavior, development, integrated marketing communications, and new & social media.
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