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'Tweets' prove troublesome for airlines

[ 2009-08-20 14:17]     字号 [] [] []  
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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. Airlines are discovering that fuming passengers who have been stranded, delayed or just plain piqued are increasingly letting their 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 has quickly been embraced as a powerful tool to counter censorship. The service lets people broadcast 140-character instant text messages to countless readers.

Last Wednesday morning, Twitter's featured posts about airlines included the following:

"Screw American Airlines. Every plane has been broken. So done," read one post from a Twitter user.

"Shame on you Continental Airlines," and "United airlines, you are the bane of my existence," were other posts.

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 enables 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."

In the last year, US airlines slashed the number of flights to control costs. Planes remain packed: load factors, measuring how full a plane is, were near 85 percent for the top nine US airlines in July.

Despite the crowded planes, on-time performance has improved. US Transportation Department data for first-half 2009 show 78.9 percent of flights landed within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival. In 2000, that was at 72.6 percent.

So by that measure, air travelers should have less to complain about these days. But don't tell that to airlines.

"A lot of people are upset, and they use these channels to vent," said Christi Day at Southwest Airlines, who runs the carrier's Twitter and Facebook profiles. "The main thing that our customers need to know is that we hear them."

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

'Tweets' prove troublesome for airlines

About the broadcaster:

'Tweets' prove troublesome for airlines

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move to China and join the China Daily team.