Business, Life and Business Life. Real Talk.

Airlines Should Jump Off the Social Media Bandwagon

Everyone is jumping on the social media bandwagon nowadays aren’t they? Airlines included. They kind of have to I suppose. If one airline is engaging their customers through social media, others can’t fall behind because people will take notice.

So airlines are getting social in social media. But after my last flying experience I get the feeling that they are forgetting to be social in person.

I recently flew to Las Vegas from New York and back with two different airlines. The experience left me with impressions of three different airlines.

Me at the Grand Canyon

This picture does the Canyon no justice…

American Airlines

I flew American Airlines to Las Vegas.  And they left with me two impressions of their airline…

Impression #1: The first impression came walking through the tunnel to get from the terminal into the airplane. Usually the walk is takes 10 seconds through a short, straight-away tunnel. This thing was a maze! But that’s not the problem, nor do I think that’s necessarily American Airline’s fault…they didn’t build the airport.

But right when I finally go to the plane, an AA worker was stepping out of the plane to go to the terminal. Not sure if she forgot something, or if she had to relay message. But she was clearly unhappy. And in case the passengers entering the plane weren’t sure of her unhappiness, she made sure they knew by stating “seriously American Airlines! You should be shot!”

Well that’s nice. Good to know that an AA employee thinks that AA should be shot. I feel real confident in their service now!

Impression #2: The second impression came during the actual flight. I don’t expect five star service on a plane…I wasn’t flying first class, nor am I pretentious enough to expect it even if I was. Getting me from Point A to Point B safely is usually good enough.

However, the job of the flight attendant is to make your flight more comfortable, not more unpleasant. The angry flight attendant on the plane didn’t add to the experience on bit.

And what did he have to be angry about? He gets to fly to different places for free working in an environment where the male/female ratio is distinctly in his favor :).

I do understand that people have bad days. But you need to set that aside when you’re going to work, especially when your job is to serve people.

Continental/United

Flying back to New York i flew United Airlines. I’m generally a Continental guy because I’ve never had a bad experience with them. I booked my return flight through Continental and it was serviced by United. I was pleased to see that the merger didn’t have any effect on the flight experience.

Sure, they don’t offer free meals any more. Most airlines don’t. But they do offer you the option of purchasing a meal on board. The representative at the terminal even made an announcement that passengers are free to purchase something at the airport and bring it on board as an alternative – the first time I’ve heard an agent of any airline make that explicitly clear.

And like I said, I don’t want to be pampered on a plane. I want them to get me to my destination safely, and just don’t make my flight experience unpleasant. Continental (now Continental/United) has never disappointed me in that regard.

The Third Impression

So I just told you about the two airlines that I actually flew. But how did I come out with impressions of three airlines?

The third airline that left me with an uneasy feeling was JetBlue, even though I never got on a JetBlue plane and never even came close to a JetBlue counter.

Let me premise this by mentioning that JetBlue is often regarded as a pioneer in the airline social media game. Just search for “JetBlue social media” and you will find countless case studies talking about their social media savvy and how they nailed it.

Earlier this year, The Next Web listed JetBlue as one of five airlines that are showing social media savvy.

So how far does social media savvy get you in the airline business? In my case…not far at all!

While waiting in the terminal for my United Airlines flight, an announcement came over the airport intercom: “Attention please, would a JetBlue representative please come to your counter to attend to your customers?”

Seriously?

Seriously?

It’s bad enough that the airline was neglecting their paying customers, but it was made worse by the public announcement over the intercom. That announcement made sure that everyone in the airport, not just those flying JetBlue, knew that their service was lacking (to say the least).

Social in Not Just Media

An internet business can get by just by being social online. That’s likely the only interaction you will get with customers. But an in-person service provider needs to worry about a lot more. The emphasis should be placed on the live service providers more so than the social media aspect.

American Airlines has a whole page on their website dedicate to their social media accounts. The tag line is “American Airlines is Social.” They may be social on the internet, but they were a bit anti-social in person.

JetBlue seems to be really social in the media. And? What’s the end result for their actual flight service? It seems as though they are using social media in a reactionary manner to make up for lack of service on the ground (and in the air).

The people in the air are different than the people running social media campaigns. The social media guys understand that customer engagement and interaction is necessary for business success in today’s world. Unfortunately someone forgot to mention that to the people on the ground at the customer service counters at the airport.

Someone up top needs to send a message to the ranks that they should take a queue from the social media guys. Or maybe they should just stick some social media guys onto the planes :).

But Seriously…

I feel terrible complaining about any airline “service” considering that they provide us the miracle of flying from one location to the next. But I guess that’s what we do. And when faced with a choice of receiving a miracle, or receiving a miracle and great service, we’re going to chose the latter.

And with that, if you’ve ever been unhappy about flying, I leave you with Louis CK…


Your Two Cents:

What is your favorite airline?
What is the worst experience you’ve had flying? And with who?
Are some companies focusing too much on their media efforts and not enough on their actual core business processes?
Are we way to spoiled as a culture at this point?


21 Responses to Airlines Should Jump Off the Social Media Bandwagon

  1. Eugene,

    That is actually some crazy stuff. I haven’t seen such lack of professionalism in my flights in a long time. On most of the flights I have been on recently at least the staff has seemed to try to be professional and pleasing.

    (I too generally take Continental)

    Of course from the top down it seems to me that the people in charge seem to be penny wise, pound foolish. The little things like the $1.99 it probably costs them to hand you a meal should not be something they try to “cut out”.

    You certainly cannot gloss over lack of customer service on a airline wide level with a little “social media”

    Which of course is your point!

    -Steve

    • Eugene says:

      Hey Steve,

      I haven’t seen it in a while either. And I’m not one to normally complain about flights because the most important thing for me is to get there and back in one piece. But I felt like these companies were going out of their way to make it awkward or unpleasant for their travelers…especially that JetBlue situation. Really? Not even a person at the counter???

      Just yesterday I flew AirTran from New York to Cleveland. Of course this is one of those airlines that is often viewed as value over quality. But the service I got on this plane was much better than I got from American Airlines. And I got a little bag of pretzels too, which is more than I got from American Airlines for a flight that was 5 times as long. Not a huge deal, but a nice touch that you take note of when other airlines abandon the practice.

  2. Vernon says:

    i really love article with video attachment because I will clearly understand the content. The impression are clearly stated and easy to be understand.. Great post.

  3. Great account – and the intercom announcement for a JetBlue rep is crazy. Really hope someone from the airline reads this. I’ve never even heard of them but it’s already enough to put me off.

    Face to face customer service needs to come first. THEN social media. I bet there’s a tiny % of customers that actually bother checking out an airlines social media page anyway.

    The best airline I’ve flown with is Jet Airways. Great service, comfy plane and stewardesses that are genuinely happy.

    The worst has to be Air India – the plane stinks, it rattles to the extent where you think it’ll fall apart and the stewardesses are annoyingly fake.

    I don’t think we’re spoilt – good service is an essential ingredient for all businesses. If we’re gonna spend our hard earned money, service isn’t too much to ask for.

    • Eugene says:

      My point exactly with that JetBlue announcement – even people that weren’t flying that airline that day, but heard the announcement, probably aren’t even going to look at them as an option in the future.

      I’m not sure what the % is of customers that look at airline social media accounts, but I know I didn’t until I decided to write this post – and I’ve flown plenty in my life.

      My top priority is always safety…but I think that all airlines are pretty safe across the board (at least in the U.S.). So when faced with a choice of flying with great service, or flying with shitty service – I’m going with the good service (unless there is a huge price disparity to justify it :)).

  4. CK is so right! I still remember the days with that old phone, it was simple and only had one ringing tone. Now we have so many phones, they’re close to boiling our eggs, making sandwiches, placing a blanket on our backs if we fall asleep at the PC. And they’re tiring me. Really, i’m so stressed and so tired!

    • Eugene says:

      Haha, “they’re close to boiling our eggs, making sandwiches, placing a blanket on our backs if we fall asleep at the PC”

      I’ll be honest with you…I’d buy that kind of phone :)

  5. I had a bad experience with American Airlines losing my luggage for a couple of days, but as far as in-flight service, I don’t have any complaints with any airlines. I always prefer to fly in planes that look like they are new, even if they are 10 years old. I feel more comfortable in a plane that looks new than one that looks like it may fall apart during the flight. All international flights have been better than domestic flights. And those going to Asian countries give the closest to 5-star service, in my opinion.

    • Eugene says:

      Hey Lionel,

      I normally never complain about flights, but this unhappy attendant really made it unpleasant. Oh well, I got there in one piece, that’s really all that matters. I do agree with you on the international flight point though, they are usually MUCH better service. I’ve never flown to Asia unfortunately, but it’s definitely on the bucket list.

  6. Eugene says:

    Makes perfect sense Ken, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I’ve never flown Lufthansa but I hear great things about it (along with some of the Asia-based airlines). I’m not sure why domestic flights are often worse than the international ones, maybe they’re getting lazy.

  7. Pete says:

    I think all businesses should jump off the social media bandwagon – it is there for ‘social’ not business and we all know that you shouldn’t mix business and pleasure together!

    • Eugene says:

      Hey Pete,

      I’m not sure I can agree with you on this one. The trend has taken off and at this point if you’re not getting social with people through your business you could be falling behind your competitors. This is true for some industries more than others, but we live in a different world now. Not sure we can turn back either. People want to be buying from their best friend now.

  8. Another good stuff Eugene!

    Some airlines do the social media and use it as a tool to inform everyone about ongoing promotions,discounts and perks. So when everyone gets excited to be flying for less, they sometimes get disappointed with the service that they get because they were expecting more. I agree with you that when you’re working, you should put your personal baggage aside, especially when you’re in customer service. You should always make your customers feel that you’re happy to be of service because thats your job. Another great post from you., Looking forward for more.

    • Eugene says:

      Promotions are great, and I understand they make sense for business. But they should still focus on personal customer service because that’s what people remember…not that the great price they got.

  9. Richinka says:

    Nice grand canyon photo, whoever took it must have been a professional photographer.

    On my way back from my last exciting trip, it took me 22 hours to get home, and 5 airlines were involved. We were offered two $400 vouchers, but that offer was later rescinded.

    The people along the way were very helpful but the system fell apart – computers over booking and canceling or delaying flights, with no communication between the isolated boarding terminals.

    Oh well, in the end like you said I just “want them to get me to my destination safely,” but the reason the USA is the greatest nation on earth is because we DEMAND to be spoiled rotten.

    • Eugene says:

      That photo was heavily photoshopped. The original was terrible! :)

      I don’t think its so much a matter of us demanding it, but the competition between airlines allows us to choose the one that provides the best service (if any of them decide to provide good service).

  10. I think the first two airlines are acceptable than the third :) Being a widely known social media savvy airline, but doing just the media and NOT really social, is a horrible thing. To be honest, I find this one REALLY funny, “Attention please, would a JetBlue representative please come to your counter to attend to your customers?” :)

    Hope they’re able to read your post!

    • Eugene says:

      Me too Brian :). I saw people that were waiting for the flight with me shake their heads when they heard that announcement.

  11. Don’t really like flying, regardless of the airline. But i agree these guys should focus more on offline services instead of just attracting clients online to only disappoint them later.

    • Eugene says:

      I just flew Spirit Airlines last weekend. I don’t even want to get started! They promote themselves as a discount airline, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’d rather pay more up front and never fly them again. Still loving Continental. Although AirTran has treated me well too :)