Airlines Social Media

How I Harnessed the Power of Social Media to Get What I Wanted

Ever had a company totally screw you over and wish you could do something about it? Ever felt insulted by said company’s lame attempts to make you happy but felt powerless to get anything more? Fear not, friends, I have a solution for you…Social Media!

Now, you may be thinking, I never thought that Facebook profile or Twitter user name could help me! Well, Facebook, not so much, but Twitter has the power to change your life! Unlike Facebook, Twitter allows you to broadcast your message to a worldwide audience. The key is to mention the company’s Twitter handle in all your tweets. If they’re responsible, they won’t want all this negative publicity being endlessly re-tweeted (RT’d) against them!

Complaining About Awful Service on Twitter

Think I’m crazy? What if I told you I actually succeeded here? Remember a couple of months ago I wrote about my awful flight home on United Airlines from the TBEX Conference in Vancouver? How my flight was delayed 4+ hours due to lack of pilot and we were sent to a different airport than planned? How they decieved us about non-existent ground transportation? And how I thought their offer of compensation (3,000 miles) was absurd?

Well, there’s more to that story! See, almost immediately after getting home I took to Twitter to voice my complaints, being sure to mention @United (the airline’s official Twitter feed) as much as I could. Much to my surprise, they quickly sent me a direct message asking for my mileage number. “Sweet!,” I thought. Who knew getting something would be so easy!

Twitter For Dummies
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Not so fast… A week went by without any further word so I filed an official grievance with Customer Service, who replied and largely ignored my complaint entirely, instead opting to give me yet another 3,000 miles.

Still peeved about the situation, I decided to share my sad tale with my readers by writing about that faithful night. The post did pretty well, both with RT’s and comments as folks came out of the woodwork to share their own airline horror stories. And every time I tweeted it, I was sure to mention @United.

Position Closed
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The Phone Call

About a week later, I get a phone call from a real live representative from United’s Executive Services department, informing me that their social media staff had advised them they should get in touch with me. I was literally stunned. Here I was, talking to a rep at United who deals with the big wigs in their mileage program all because of my tweeting?

The rep heard my story, apologized profusely, and then said, “I’m prepared to exchange the 6,000 miles you’ve already received for a $150.00 certificate.” I balked!

Let me tell you why I am not a fan of discount certificates. They have restrictions, so it’s not like they’re saying, “here, take $150 on us!”. What’s more, those certificates must be used within 1 year and must be booked at!

Miles, on the other hand, offer me the flexibility to use them anywhere in the Star Alliance network, which is, ultimately, what I’m after. But under this scenario, I would lose those miles and gain the certificate. Nooooo thank you!

Unfortunately, the customer service rep just wouldn’t budge! I began to go over the facts again and again. United had reached out to me on Twitter nearly a month earlier and I was just now hearing from them. And then there’s the whole ground transportation thing which left me feeling lied to. It wasn’t working.

So, I played the ace card that I told myself I never wanted to play. I told her I was blogger and that I had written about my terrible experience. I told her about how it was one of my most popular posts ever and of all the commenters sharing their horror stories. That’s right about the time her attitude changed…

The Reward

“Well, I’m not supposed to do this,” she told as she agreed to a healthy sum of miles in addition to those I had already received. In fact, she asked me not to disclose the amount that we settled on. I chuckled as I thought, “What, does United not want the good publicity?”

So here I am…months later with my extra miles in hand. Now do I feel justly compensated for the ordeal? Oh yeah! What’s more, I feel like I’ve survived a “David vs Goliath” tale. But in it, I learned a valuable lesson that is worth its weight in gold:

There is GREAT power in Social Media if you use it to your advantage! 

Now I Want to Hear From You!

Have you had any experiences where Twitter has helped you in a difficult situation? 


By Aaron

Hey there! I'm Aaron and this is my travel site, where I document my adventures to all corners of the world. My love for travel started at the ripe old age of four, when a midlife crisis uprooted my family to Ecuador for five years. Since then, I've been to countries on 4 different continents. When I'm not blissfully on the road, I reside in New York City, where I become the ultimate travel junkie and spend my days dreaming up my next great adventure! Read More...

26 replies on “How I Harnessed the Power of Social Media to Get What I Wanted”

Really? What happened to you?

They told us they’d give us ground transportation at 3:30am after they delayed us for 4 hours and then sent us to a different airport! They told us it would be out front and it never showed! Now that, under the circumstances, is just cruel in my opinion!

I hope you fought Air Canada on that and got something good for your troubles!

Nice job Aaron and way to stick to your guns. I think the airlines are one of the only industries around where we somehow accept the fact that the treat us like crap. Kusdos to you and you might have spawned a whole new internet/twitter scam of people trying to replicate you without the horror story 🙂

Thanks Todd! I agree, which is interesting considering all their loyalty programs they have! Just goes to show what the future of customer service is! If you broadcast your message loud enough, they will listen. Now let’s hope it sticks!

It seems companies are becoming more and more aware about how powerful social media can be. It’s like the customer is always right adage, but even moreso. As long as it’s being used carefully, not trying to get free things all the time because someone feels like they deserve it, then this can only help customers and companies.

I guess that’s the danger. But one could argue that danger was always there. Now you have the ability to broadcast your complaints louder than ever. Ultimately, it’s up to the company to decide if they want to play bat on a case-by-case basis.

Ha, it’s like a modern-day version of David vs. Goliath. =P I agree with Todd that airlines are some of the worst offenders when it comes to customer service (and leaving their customers high and dry).

I’ll keep the power of social media in mind in case we run into any problems in the future…. though there are definitely some situations I’ve had in the last few years where I could have used it! Like the time it took us two fulls DAYS to get from India to San Francisco because they kept screwing up our flights and sending us to hotels at 3 in the morning just to fetch us back at 7am (twice). And then of course at the end they flew us from Beijing OVER the U.S. to New York… and then back to San Francisco. I still snarl when I hear the words “Air China.”

I’ve heard lots of Air China horror stories… I’m impressed they’d fly you to New York instead of San Francisco, though it’s roghly the same length of flight… Of course then you have that long flight back to SFO… Did you get anything at all for your troubles?

I’ve had similar experience with using Twitter on a hotel (you can check the post out here: and just recently I was bumped off of a KLM flight. I was denied boarding even though I arrived at the airport 2 hours prior to departure and I’m a Gold member. It was a midnight flight so to say I was pissed doesn’t began to describe how I was feeling. Basically, I wanted to kill someone 🙂 LOL So…I took to Twitter. I started screaming @KLM was the worst airline ever. That got their attention. Once I had their attention I told the rep what we had experienced. When all was said and done, they offered us either 800 Euro/pp travel voucher or 600 Euro cash. Apparently since my travels falls under the European Union Regulation (EC) 261/2004 This is what I was due. OMG!! So of course I opted for the cash. This will basically more than cover the cost of the apartment we rented for our 7 day stay in Stockholm. Then when we arrived for our flight the next evening, we were bumped up to seat 6A and 6B. 🙂

So when it started out, KLM was the worst airline in the world 🙂 But, I must say, I’m satisfied with the compensation.

WOW! That makes my mileage victory seem quite puny by comparison! Of course, I don’t have any status which I’m sure makes a huge difference. I was never even OFFERED straight up cash or I would have taken that! If only my friends who had a horrendous time on KLM & Delta (and have status on Delta) had similar luck as you (they also took to Twitter…). Well done!! And thanks for sharing your experience!

Aaron, you’re right about Social Media – look what it did during Egypt’s change of government and other places around the world! Kudos Aaron for using all that you have access to.

Absolutely! Social media is the wave of the future! The faster we learn to harness its power the better off we’ll be! And thank you!

This is too true. We are currently having issues with our site host and the first thing we did was get on Twitter. Although, in our case, we have yet to have any resolution. Glad to hear you finally got the compensation you deserved!

Yeah I always turn to Twitter with host issues too! If nothing else, I can comiserate with other people who use my host! 😛

And thanks! I feel very accomplished!

Social media really is a very powerful thing, and big corporations would do well to take note!

Congrats on your United success! Good for you for sticking to your guns… and for pulling the “I’m a blogger card” haha.

Thanks Amanda! I felt kinda bad about pulling the blogger card because I just don’t feel like it’s right to pull that card, but glad it worked!

I am with you on this one Aaron. I had the same thing happen to me with Southwest. Their computers screwed up big time as they were advertising their anniversary fare online but when you tried to book it, the rate had completely changed before the deal was over. The first thing I did was wrote about it and shared my story. Then I emailed Southwest and gave them the link to my story. A week later, I got a call from a Southwest rep saying they were sorry and they had issues with the sale. They told me I could fly if I wanted and they would still honor the sale price.

At that time, I had already made other plans. However, this does work!!

Absolutely! Glad to hear to you too had some success. Seems like social media-based customer service may be the wave of the future!

Thanks Adam! I was pretty amazed at the end result but I suppose it’s the wave of the future…

Great post Aaron. This is a beautiful example of how social media gives a voice to the average person. You no longer have to have clout or status to get large corporations to hear you. Awesome job — those miles are well-deserved!

Thanks Maria! I’ve said before that this kind of felt like a David vs Goliath battle! Glad I came out on top!

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