I went on four trips in the course of six weeks this winter: France, Hawaii and Miami twice. I had to fly to these destinations, and three out of four of the trips I flew on American Airlines. It's not that I'm the most loyal American Airlines flyer but because of time schedules, direct flights, costs and available points to cash in, I decided to fly with them.
It was, as many have experienced in air travel, painful in several ways. Let's just say only one flight of all of my American legs was on time. There were maintenance problems, massive delays, wrong gates posted and flight times changed without proper notice. These are several of the reasons that people complain about flying the friendly skies.
I recognize that when you travel a fair amount these things are bound to happen from time to time but, really, five out of six flights in a row? That's a little too much.
So, you may be thinking I've had it and should pick another airline. Perhaps, but, this is not a story about my complaints. It's not a story about discovering a new, always on time airline with all the pluses of good maintenance, schedules and direct flights. No, this is actually a story of how American Airlines is doing one thing very right and that one thing will ensure I will continue to be a frequent flyer of theirs. They are doing a great job with their social media outreach. Here's how I know:
I'm a travel writer and I follow American Airlines on Twitter. I have interacted with them and asked questions to be given some kind of assistance within a very reasonable amount of time I have come to prefer this method over the automated phone calls that are unnecessarily long and not always pleasant.
The social media team have changed seating assignments through tweets. They have answered specific questions about in-flight services and Admiral's Club information. Most of all, they came to the rescue of my parents in a time of great need and all was coordinated in two tweets.
My vacation in Hawaii was with my 65 year old parents. Despite being delayed well over six hours in Los Angeles en route to Hawaii, I was thrilled to finally be on the beautiful island of Kauai. Day three into the trip, my mother fell and broke her femur. She had emergency surgery the next day consisting of rods and pins -- and it was apparent there was no way she would be flying back to Dallas in three short days.
My father was naturally distressed with the whole situation and trying to help my mom. I offered to tweet American Airlines and see what they could do to accommodate my parents now urgent needs.
This is where the story gets really good. My parents used frequent flyer miles to fly from Dallas to Hawaii round trip. If you've ever flown on miles you know that seats are rarely available and Hawaii is an expensive and popular destination to cash those precious points in.
My dad did a quick search on the next available flight home, and it would be an entire additional week tacked onto their vacation under the typical circumstances. The social media team over at American Airlines took my parents confirmation number and rebooked them on perfectly timed flights back home -- as well as placed them in the first few rows of coach due my mother's handicap situation.
In a time where a variety of airlines often get bashed, this kind of "personal touch" care will set the competition apart. Really, it isn't called social media for nothing. Customers are interacting with brands hoping they will be social back and helpful in many cases. American Airlines has shown their skills in just that.
While I still dislike maintenance issues and schedule delays, going above and beyond in customer care through a social channel makes me a happier customer. American Airlines social media acumen saved the day for my parents and me, and the end result is that I have become more loyal to American Airlines. That, and the fact that every once in a while they tweet me to see how my mom is doing now.