Posted Oct. 3, 2012
By DANIELA RODRIGUEZ
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio doesn’t tweet often but, on Sept. 21, he thought it would be a good idea to use his iPhone to tweet his frustrations through Twitter about his flight from Miami to Washington, D.C.
“American Air says maintenance problem. Yet suddenly group of new passengers boarding. Holding plane to get connectors on from delayed flight?” tweeted Rubio to American Airlines.
His flight was delayed an hour, according to his tweets. American Airlines responded back and thanked him for his patience and wished him a great flight. When he finally boarded his flight, he tweeted that he hoped his tweets tirade didn’t cost him his Executive Platinum elite passenger status.
Since the recent boom of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook being the major social media sites mostly used, companies like American Airlines have created new job positions such as social media specialist, which Annette Hernandez holds at the company, just to accommodate this new demand for an online presence.
According to Hernandez, she says addressing the good and the bad is an opportunity for American Airlines to grow as a company.
“We also want to enhance the brand and grow long-term customer relationships via social. Delivering real value in the content we share is very important to us,” said Hernandez, who works at American Airlines headquarters in Dallas.
Many major industries that affect tourism, such as the airline industries, have begun to interact with their customers through Twitter and Facebook. Dr. Juliano Laran, an assistant professor in marketing at the University of Miami, with expertise in areas such as shopping behavior and retail and marketing strategy, says that social media have been effective in improving the consumer experience.
“People can share information during a trip, which means they are better able to make an informed choice pretty much about everything on their trip, like the best restaurants and hotels,” said Laran.
A traveler who wants more information about policies of a specific airline or wants to just let out all his or her frustrations from dealing with the routine issues, such as dissatisfaction from a particular service given by the airline’s employees, can post it on the airline’s social media pages.
Resolving Customer Issues
One of the airlines to provide customer service directly from its Twitter and Facebook pages is American Airlines. With a following of more than 400,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook, American Airlines can be seen answering questions from passengers experiencing problems with their flights. In the biography section of its pages, American Airlines writes that “they’re here to offer advice and inspiration for your trip on American.”
One of the inquiries made on Sept. 25, for example, show a back-and-forth conversation with passenger Priscilla Sanchez (@PriscillaArlene), who tweeted American Airlines about possibly missing her flight due to being held up at immigration at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
They checked her flight to see if it was experiencing delays and asked her if she was close to the terminal where her flight was located. Sanchez tweeted back saying she missed her flight and had to be booked for tomorrow. She also mentioned she was hungry and American Airlines gave her recommendations on where to eat in the terminal she was in at that moment.
“On average, we receive around 1,000 contacts a day via social,” said Hernandez. “We work very hard to respond to every service-related tweet and post and are quite successful in resolving customer issues.
American Airlines responds as timely as it can since it gets dozens of posts in a day. Social media specialists, such as Hernandez, try to help with delayed flights and issues passengers experience trying to board on their flights. It either asks you to follow them on Twitter to resolve the issue through a direct message, or DM, or ask the passenger for the flight number to check the status of his or her flight. Overall, American seems to interact more through its Twitter page rather than the Facebook Page.
“We see a lot of positive comments about our responsiveness and timeliness,” said Hernandez. “Those with whom we engage often are accustomed to our quick responses and upbeat tone.”
Airlines not only try to resolve issues of their passengers through their social media pages, but in the case of American Airlines, they also offer contests to win AAdvantage miles, which is the airline’s frequent flier miles program. Some of these contests can give away up to 500,000 AAdvantage miles. There is a Twitter page dedicated to the AAdvantage program with more than 23,000 followers.
American Airlines also posts pictures of new advancements in the company, such as new planes like the new Boeing 777-300 airplane that will be the first of its model to be in the American Airlines plane fleet. The picture was retweeted 149 times and listed as a favorite 19 times by followers.
This gives a behind-the-scenes look to engage the interests of followers. American Airlines also encourages passengers to tweet their pictures in relation to American Airlines such as pictures of them holding miniature American Airlines’ model planes or pictures showing their flight experience. They are also all about fan loyalty. They check to see which follower interacts with American Airlines the most and how much of an online presence they have.
Next time you are traveling, if you are ever flying with American Airlines or any other airline that has a social media site, send a tweet to make what could be your worst traveling experience into feeling a sense of relief.
“Our number of followers on Twitter and fans on Facebook continues to steadily increase,” said Hernandez. “We’re pleased with the growth and believe it’s directly related to our customer service and engagement efforts in social media.”
List of Top 10 Most Followed Airlines on Twitter
@AmericanAir hours of operation: 6 am to midnight
For Spanish speakers: Visit @AAespanol
For Customer Relations to get a formal response for a complaint: http://www.aa.com/i18n/urls/customerRelations.jsp?anchorLocation=DirectURL&title=customerrelations?cd=120206&gc=SMT&cc=SCM&cp=FB,TW,GOO&skw=&tc=AACUSTOMERRELATIONS1&pp=
Other Social Media Sites for American Airlines: