If you have a canceled or delayed flight, you might get the urge to whip out your phone and tweet furiously at the big, verified account associated with your airline. Besides the fact that this will not magically get your flight back on track, there are good reasons you really shouldn’t rage-tweet at airlines (or any big companies).
You’re just harassing a digital worker who has no say in company management
I’ve worked on the social and digital teams for a few different news media companies. It was my job to tweet out the stories other journalists wrote—and I could see the replies to the posts. At no point was I ever in charge of what stories were written, how they were written, or even how or when they were presented online. The furious responses—”THIS is news?” and “Why aren’t you covering XYZ?” come to mind—made it clear no one tweeting back at the accounts really understood that.
The editors, producers, and reporters responsible for whatever was causing some reader indigestion that day were rarely, if ever, aware of the little fits taking place in the replies because they were off doing their jobs. Their roles were totally separate, and though there existed channels through which I could have flagged some reader’s angry tweet to the parties concerned, I was usually disinclined to do that after being addressed with such disrespect, even when the tweeter didn’t realize they were really just haranguing some 24-year-old with no power over editorial decisions whatsoever.
All of that is to say the same goes for almost all major companies. Do you truly believe the CEO of Delta is monitoring the company Twitter account or that your American Airlines pilot will see your message of outrage and blame? No, some digital employee—or, worse, third-party social media manager—will, and that person can do jack shit about the problem in the moment. It will take them time to pass your message onto someone with even a bit of involvement in the issue, especially when they’re fielding a slew of those messages every day.
By far, the clearest and funniest example of this was gifted to us over Memorial Day Weekend. A Twitter user with 33 followers tweeted at the official Delta account, claiming they were “waiting for Daisy” to “make things right” in regards to their flight. They used seven question marks and two exclamation points. The Delta account—operated, again, by real, live people who are not in the C suite or the cockpit—replied, incredibly, “Can you calm down and allow me some time to work please ??”
They did follow up to assure the customer they were reaching out to a support desk on their behalf, which is important to note. Yes, sometimes the person managing the account at the time of your tweet can do something actionable. You may be able to be rebooked or otherwise compensated—but you can achieve similar results by talking to customer service directly, either at the airport or on the phone, all without terrorizing someone whose other primary job duties might include firing off contrived memes to promote the brand.
You look like a dick
At one of those jobs where I was on a digital team, we were outright banned from tweeting at companies, since our personal social media accounts were verified and identified where we worked. Simply put, my employer didn’t want to appear to have a bunch of rude people on staff or, because we work in media, end up being accused of bias if the poster in question ever had to cover the company they rage-tweeted at.
You might not be a journalist with any bias-related ethics to contend with, but you still don’t want to look like an asshole, especially if your Twitter is associated with your professional presence online. Even if it’s not, you will look like a petulant clown. In the now-viral exchange between the angry tweeter and the Delta account, for instance, the original furious post has a mere 438 likes. Delta’s response is nearing 36,000. Granted, of the 34 replies to the original tweet, many are from people commiserating about similar travel experiences, so if you’re looking for comfort and camaraderie instead of results, tweeting at a company could net you what you’re after—but again, you’ll still look like a dick.
What to do instead
Staffing issues—especially after COVID-related masking mandates were lifted—and weather play a big part in airline struggles, and since those factors are out of your control, you can still be understandably frustrated when your flight doesn’t go according to plan. If the change occurs while you’re at the airport, immediately seek out an employee who can give you guidance on your best next steps and possibly offer you a hotel voucher or rebooking. If it happens while you’re away from the airport, get on the phone to customer service ASAP. You are still a paying customer and you are owed some recourse. Here is a guide for how to get an actual person on the phone, no matter which airline you fly with.
To the best of your ability, book your trip with delays or cancellations in mind. Try to pad your schedule, if possible.
Remember, airline employees—from check-in agents to social media managers—are people, too. Treat them kindly and with respect. It’s really not their fault—and they’ll be more inclined to pull some strings or go the extra mile for you if you act respectfully.