Disgruntled Passenger 2.0: Buys a promoted tweet against British Airways for losing bags. Airline customer service has changed.

Today, the connected traveller has the same tools as the airline. And is probably better at using them too! Just last month, British Airways warmed our hearts with their Youtube campaign, Visit Mum, which went viral. But one-way marketing can only go so far. Social media has now come back to bite them. [push h=”14″]

It’s not uncommon for airlines to lose bags. But it’s unheard of, for an angry passenger, to buy a promoted tweet to vent his/her frustrations when baggage is lost. And that just happened! [push h=”14″]

The implications are tremendous for the future of airline customer service, especially on social media: A man whose father’s bag British Airways lost just spent money to buy a promoted tweet against British Airways in the New York City and UK markets! In the first six hours since the tweet was promoted, it had garnered over 25,000 impressions only on Twitter. This excludes coverage on wildly popular blogs like Mashable. (At our last count, that Mashable article alone had over 5000 shares on Twitter and Facebook combined just a few hours after being published.) [push h=”14″]

 

 

 

 

 

The backstory

When Hasan Syed’s parents, who flew Business Class on British Airways from Chicago to Paris on Saturday, realised that one of their bags had not made it to the belt in Paris, they were understandably distraught. While the flight was operated by OpenSkies, via Newark, the British Airways staff wasn’t of much help. In a Twitter interview with SimpliFlying, Mr Hasan clarified, [push h=”14″]

“My father lost his luggage en-route to Paris. BA was giving him the run-around so he asked me to assist.”

When there was no response from British Airways after two days, to help his dad, Mr Hasan resorted to Twitter to get the airline (and the world’s) attention. He bought a promoted tweet against British Airways (of course written by himself), highlighting the airline’s lack of customer service. It seems that the world has taken note, but British Airways hasn’t responded as of the writing of this article. [push h=”14″]

British Airways’ lack of response

Meanwhile, British Airways’ two key Twitter accounts – one for the US and another global account, seemed oblivious to the situation for the first seven hours. While the US account doesn’t seem to reply to any tweets, the global account clearly states that they only reply after 9am GMT each day. That’s still two hours away at the time of this article being published, and possibly the reason why there’s been no response. [push h=”14″]

To be fair to British Airways, none of the legs were flown on the airline itself. The Chicago-Newark leg was flown by American Eagle, and the Newark-Paris leg on OpenSkies. But the tickets were likely bought on BA.com. To make matters worse, we learnt from our initial emails to British Airways’ social media team that one of the key members of the team is out of office till next week. This possibly delayed things further.

While British Airways may be getting better with one-way marketing, they seem to be missing a trick here by not addressing Mr Hasan’s customer service requests promptly. [push h=”14″]

promoted tweet british airways simpliflying

What would you do?

While we continue to observe how British Airways resolves this situation, here are five things your airline should think about doing, to avoid such a situation in the future. [push h=”14″]

  • Have a standard operating procedure (SOP) for such incidences. Customers venting their frustrations online is a common occurrence. So why not just have a process for handling such instances? If you start digging the well when you’re thirsty, it’s already too late.
  • Even if you don’t have an SOP, the customer service department needs to work with the social media team to create a proper escalation method for customer complaints online, especially those that have gone viral, like Hasan’s. Just like there are escalation procedures for “offline” matters. A VP-level executive should be alerted immediately, so that the typical hierarchy doesn’t interfere and swift decisions can be taken.
  • Create a digital customer service, and crisis communications plan. This plan should help in all situations. See our [Infographic] for more details.
  • Have an FAQ training for front-staff — a hands-on workshop that reviews solutions to frequent scenarios, like bag loss or flight delays, will help everyone be prepared better.
  • Finally, take a look at our Customer Service 2.0 in-house MasterClass — over two days, we discuss over 50 case studies, deep dive into free social media tools and help you come up with strategies for these types of situations.

Meanwhile, airlines today need to recognise that their detractors also have the same tools, and are more agile too! We hope Mr Hasan’s promoted tweet results in British Airways going beyond saying “please DM us with details” on Twitter, and helps his dad get his bag back in Paris soon. [push h=”14″]

Also, the future of customer service online might be poised to become rather more tricky is this becomes a trend. Airlines need to get their crisis communication plans in place at the earliest!  [push h=”14″]

Update
British Airways responded to Mr Hasan about 7hours after the tweet was sent out, exactly at 9am London time. Hope this resolves the issue soon enough.
BA Promoted Tweet reponse[push h=”14″]

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Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco. Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others. Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities.
Shashank Nigam
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Showing 37 comments
  • @jethrowatson
    Reply

    Great article and will help me on my quest to sort out a problem with @VodafoneUK who are stopping me from remortgaging because they didn’t close my account properly.

  • Steve H
    Reply

    You’re blaming the wrong company (or rather Mr Syed did). It’s freaking Charles DeGaulle Airport. Go ahead..I dare you..try to find out HOW MANY TIMES bags go lost or destroyed in Charles DeGaulle.

    I avoid the Paris Airport like the plague.

    • Shashank Nigam
      Reply

      Bang on! Steve, i avoid CDG too..

    • FastPeter
      Reply

      I am sure this would have been less of an issue if the airline could have told him where the bag was last recorded in their system.

    • jtb1965
      Reply

      CDG might have lost the baggage but at the end of the day his dad had a contract with BA not CDG. It was BA’s responsibility to deal with this; the issue as I am reading this wasn’t the lost baggage but the way they did(n’t) deal with it.

  • Kevin Steppe
    Reply

    @simpliflying:disqus Congrats on getting quoted by BBC. Stop by sometime you’re in town.

    • Shashank Nigam
      Reply

      Thanks Kevin! Will surely let you know when I’m back next. Hope you’re keeping well!

  • Stephen Uttley
    Reply

    Poor customer service from British Airways after losing
    baggage really is only part of the story – how about them losing a child! My son aged 17, who is a dual national with
    Russian and British passports was returning from Moscow yesterday with his
    adult sister and when he went to the baggage check-in he was told that he
    wouldn’t be allowed on the plane as he didn’t have a notarised letter of
    permission signed by both his parents (both of whom are British nationals and
    resident in the UK). He had a British
    passport as well – in which her Majesty requests and commands that her subjects
    are allowed to travel with let or hindrance – but try telling that to a Russian
    border guard, so he had to remain in Moscow while his sister returned
    home. The first his parents knew of all
    this was over 4 hours later when big sister arrived at Heathrow without a
    brother. Any messages from British
    Airways either before or on arrival you have to be joking. Their line is that
    immigration is all the responsibility of the customer and we have no legal (or
    moral – yes they confirmed this to be
    the case) responsibility to get our son
    home.

    The British Airways staff at Heathrow did contact their
    counterparts in Moscow – who did tell them they were turning away about 2
    children a day in Moscow because of the new legal requirement to have a
    letter of permission to leave – but had they bothered to communicate this to
    the check-in staff in London so that those leaving on a return ticket to Moscow
    could be warned of the requirement when they returned from Moscow? No – this was
    something entirely new to them – even though in theory the regulation was
    changed nearly a year ago. Were we told
    anything about the requirement when buying the tickets from them or when
    checking in on line, or is there something on either the BA UK or Russia
    websites. No absolutely nothing at
    all. Nothing on the Russian Embassy
    website either – but then the Russian government probably has an even worse reputation
    as a service organisation than BA. We
    have also been told since by the Russian Embassy that they would have expected
    my son to have been allowed on the flight as he was travelling with his adult
    sister – but was there any BA staff on the ground in Moscow prepared to argue
    with the Border Guards on my sons behalf.
    Well I’m sure you can guess the answer to that. BA just do not seem to accept that they
    should have a higher degree of expertise on these matters than the public at
    large.

    And what about assistance from BA to get us out of this mess
    – well they did find the emergency number of the Russian Embassy so we could
    get the notarized permission and have kept the return leg of the flight open –
    but that is it. Any help in getting the
    permission couriered out to my son in Moscow, any concern about what my son is up
    to in Moscow (he is fine but no thanks to BA), any apologies, any replies to
    communication etc.etc. The managers in Heathrow have just washed
    their hands of the entire matter at about 7:50pm last night, that is after two
    clones gave identical statements regarding BA’s legal liability on the matter –
    saying that I had to contact Customer Relations if I wanted to take the matter
    further. Customer Relations of course closed at 8pm and before then there was
    standard recorded message saying we are experiencing high volumes of calls
    before disconnecting you.

  • derek
    Reply

    This is actually kind of disgusting and is akin to the douchebag customer who stomps his feet and makes enough fuss until the vendor must engage a disproportionate amount of its finite customer service resources to solving THAT self righteous prick’s problem, while other customers with problems must then wait longer. How about this: wait in line like everyone else.

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