Airlines Can’t Keep Up With Customers’ Social Media Complaints

Flickr user Patcard

Days after the son of an irate passenger bought a promoted tweet to shame British Airways, a second European airline is feeling the sting of a social media barrage aimed at its alleged ineptitude.

Air Berlin flight 8109 took off on August 9 without a single piece of checked baggage for the 200 passengers on board. Making matters even worse, it couldn’t locate any of the bags for weeks, causing a storm of Twitter complaints and a Facebook page devoted to the debacle.

That one incident would be bad enough, but according to Slate.com, Air Berlin also lost the musical instruments of two high-profile touring bands, one from Sweden and the other from Canada. The Toronto-based Metz vented their frustrations on Twitter, first to announce their gear was lost and again, two weeks later, to announce they’d finally recovered their instruments.

Scrolling down the airline’s Twitter page, visitors are met with apology after apology by the airline for missing baggage. Compliments on great service are hard to find.

How much of an impact are the angry Facebook posts and tweets really having? It’s obvious from the most recent complaints that Air Berlin hasn’t fixed the problems. Despite Hasan Syed’s tweet which received more than 25,000 impressions, British Airways has yet to respond publicly. Doctor Who and Torchwood fan favorite actor John Barrowman let his 217,000 followers know when he had an issue with a late departure and faulty seat on his Delta Airlines flight, but didn’t provide a promised update of a potential resolution.

From personal experience, I can say angry tweets aimed at Delta Airlines for a disastrous overseas flight in June never received a response. (Although to be fair, they did respond later after my wife logged an official complaint. More than 30 days after the initial complaint, but hey, Delta is rarely on time for anything.)

Have you used social media to lodge a complaint against an airline? What’s been the end result? Does social media shaming work or are old-fashioned complaint calls still the best way to vent your frustration?

Boeing moves flight attendant call button

call buttonIt happens on many flights: you or a seatmate is groping blindly for the reading light or trying to plug earphones into to the armrest, accidentally hitting the flight attendant call button. This may happen several times per flight, causing flight attendants needless trips up and down the aisle to check on embarrassed passengers. It’s a pet peeve on the Gadling team, among both crew and other travelers.

Not anymore. The new Boeing 737 airplane, unveiled this week at the Paris Air Show, has finally corrected this design flaw. The call button has how been moved away and distinguished from the reading light button, to prevent future mistaken “dings.” Other new design elements for the most popular passenger jet include LED lighting and higher overhead bins to provide more headroom. Airberlin will be the first airline to receive a new 737. “On every flight somebody pushes the wrong button. It is an issue for flight attendants,” said pilot Tim Techt.

Photo courtesy Flickr user gurms

Suspected bomb on airplane was a “dummy”

bombYesterday’s potential bomb on an Air Berlin flight from Namibia to Germany turns out to have been an American-made “dummy” used by security officials for training, BBC reports.

The “bomb” consists of a detonator, wires, and a ticking clock and is put in a suitcase and through the system to measure the efficiency of an airport’s security. The device did not contain explosives and was detected before being put on the plane, so score one for Namibian airport security. But here’s the catch–there was no security test going on. So either it was put on by accident (unlikely) or someone decided to create a scare. Local police are investigating and with tourism being such a big money maker in Namibia, whoever was responsible faces some serious consequences. I wonder what the inside of a Namibian jail looks like?

The first wind we had of this new development came from Gadling reader Sabrina, who read about it on German news. Vielen Dank, Sabrina!

Breaking news: Suspected bomb found on German airline

bombA flight from Namibia to Germany was delayed earlier today after a suspected bomb was found in a suitcase. The package included a detonator, batteries, and a clock, the BBC reports. Details are unclear at this moment and it is not known if the device was an actual bomb or simply meant to intimidate.

The suspected bomb was found before it was loaded onto an Air Berlin flight from Windhoek to Munich. The flight was delayed for several hours as all passengers and luggage were checked. It has now safely completed its journey.

Germany has recently upped its security because of intelligence that an attack was imminent.

An interesting detail in this case was that the suitcase had no destination sticker, suggesting that it did not go through normal check-in procedures.

[Photo courtesy user Arcturus via Wikimedia Commons]

Air Berlin’s two-for-one promo

Air Berlin, the German low-cost carrier that gets typically great reviews for its various old-school perks seldom associated with budget airlines (assigned seating, checked bags carried through to connecting flights, and free snacks, drinks, and newspapers) is promoting a great special offer, today through June 28.

The offer sees the airline selling two-for-one Berlin-Miami and Berlin-Dubai fares. Some of Air Berlin’s beginning fares are already quite reasonable, so the two-for-one offer is nothing to be sneezed at. The lowest fare I was able to find for both Berlin-Dubai and Berlin-Miami flights is €408, a decent deal for a single traveler. For two, €408 for a round trip Berlin-Miami or Berlin-Dubai fare is a downright steal.

Helpfully for American tourists, this offer also applies to journeys originating in Miami. Air Berlin’s deal thus provides a cheap route for South Florida-based travelers to one of Europe’s most exciting cities. The Berlin-Dubai two-for-one offer also provides a great opportunity to inexpensively extend a Europe jaunt to Dubai.

Remarkably, as of right now, there are Berlin-Dubai flights still available at the starting €408 fare for travel during the high-demand weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

While the two-for-one flights have to be booked by June 28, the travel period covered by the promotion is broad. The two-for-one deal can be booked for travel between November 1 and April 30, 2011.

(Image: Flickr/woody1778a)