Geoff Golberg vs Virgin Atlantic – Another use of promoted tweets to protest against an airline

A little over twelve months ago, we wrote of how Hasan Syed used promoted tweets to vent his frustration against British Airways after his father was separated from his luggage on a journey to Paris.

At the time, we speculated that whilst this was a novel use of the promoted tweet facility, it might not be the game changer the extensive media coverage it generated suggested.

In, perhaps, proof of the point, it has taken over a year for another promoted tweet against an airline to catch our attention.

This time it is Virgin Atlantic that is the target of a passenger’s ire.

Step forward Geoff Golberg:


The promoted tweet has not been universally welcomed with open arms:

https://twitter.com/ellbphotography/status/553231142904950784

And:

We are not going to comment on the merits of the original complaint and Virgin Atlantic’s response as we are not privy to the facts.

However, witness the difference in response from followers to these complaints:

https://twitter.com/SamanthaStan21/status/525756038524710913

And this:

https://twitter.com/runfastlftheavy/status/552096172375285760

The difference is of course these Tweets appeared on timelines of those who had chosen to follow the source of the tweet (being Kim Cattrall obviously makes a difference too). They did not appear uninvited.

However, the recurrence of promoted tweets has prompted some observations about airlines and handling complaints.

Air travel is a product that is a fruitful ground for potential frustration.

Passenger expectations can be very high (set in part by airline advertising and their extensive use of non-airline imagery) and a flight is rarely taken for an ordinary reason. Logistically, an airline is a hugely complex operation. Airlines are reliant on a huge range of external factors, from mother nature to air traffic control, to meet passenger needs. And although they may not admit it publicly, every day airlines have to balance operational efficiency and being flexible for individual passengers.

When things do not go to plan there can often be a difference between what actually happens and how it is perceived. Very often things are done by airlines for good reason that may not be immediately obvious to a lay passenger. Even for frequent flyers, familiarity can easily breed contempt.

An airline ticket is also the ultimate perishable product. When expectations are not met, there is little that can be done by the airline after the event to remedy the situation (bar compensation in cash or frequent flyer miles). Unlike a physical product whatever defects occurred cannot be repaired or replaced.

Those in airlines who handle customer complaints are removed from the original incident. And the longer the passenger has to stew on the issue, the harder it is to assuage the complaint.

Twitter has long been a source for members of the public and celebrities to vent their frustration at airlines (as well as train companies, utilities and so forth) and will no doubt continue to be so. It is a useful tool for airlines to disseminate information quickly and respond to factual questions. BA has learnt its lesson from the Hasan Syed incident and now responds to tweets 24 hours a day.

As for passengers and complaints, when things (as they inevitably always will from time to time) go wrong we’d strongly advise trying to seek a resolution at the time. For example, BA’s senior cabin crew are equipped to provide compensation in the form of its frequent flyer programme currency Avios on board flights. When complaining after a flight, stick to the facts and focus on seeking a resolution. After all, the person handling your complaint has a case load to clear.

And ultimately, if things are not resolved to your satisfaction, take your business elsewhere.

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