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Frustrated tweets new headache for airlines
Thu Aug 20, 2009 5:31pm EDT
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By Kyle Peterson
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Indignant letters, e-mails and phone calls can still get results for unhappy airline travelers, but more are finding that if you really want to vent your frustrations, you can now be loud and fast and public.
At least that's the buzz on Twitter, where airlines are discovering that fuming passengers who have been stranded, delayed or just plain piqued are increasingly letting their undiluted rage fly around the Internet, often from the confines of their cramped airplane seat.
Twitter and other fast-growing social networking websites like Facebook and YouTube have sprung up as yet another front in beleaguered airlines public relations battle.
Although such sites have practical uses for airlines -- say, publicizing fare sales and flight information -- experts said the technology has put carriers on the defensive as they race to tame Twitter furies every day.
"It's almost an underground rage factory," said Terry Trippler, at tripplersview.com, a travel opinion website. "Rarely, I see Twitter messages praising an airline. It's usually attacking an airline."
Twitter, which lets people broadcast 140-character instant text messages to countless readers, has quickly been embraced as a powerful tool to counter censorship. Twitter messages, or "tweets," from Iranian protesters after the recent disputed elections became a running part of the drama.
On last Wednesday morning, Twitter's featured posts about airlines included the following:
"Screw american airlines. Every plane has Been broken. Gah. So done," read one post from Twitter user sheissilenttoo.
"Shame on you Continental Airlines," read another post from user DiscoverU.
"United airlines, you are the bane of my existence," user elnodonle wrote.
Continental Airlines and AMR Corp's American Airlines declined to comment specifically on those posts. A United Airlines spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment.
"We are monitoring tweets and are responding directly or publicly where appropriate," said Continental spokeswoman Kelly Cripe.
Billy Sanez, who manages social media for AMR, said social media enable better dialogue with customers.
"Twitter and a lot of the other social media sites and tools are a way for people to create a conversation or say something," he said. "If they want to chat and if they want to have a conversation, we'll have a conversation. If they want to say something they have an opportunity to express it."
ONE MORE HEADACHE? Continued...
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