How I Tweeted My Way to a Free Airline Ticket

How I Tweeted My Way to a Free Airline Ticket

Twitter is an incredible tool. Those 280 characters pack an amazing punch.

Use it foolishly and you can lose millions of dollars and take a lot of innocent people down with you. Think Roseanne Barr.

Use it wisely and you may get elected President of the United States. Think Donald Trump, our 45th President.

Before last week, my only use for a personal Twitter account was to see if school buses were running on snowy mornings.

Until Delta Airlines made me angry.

Several months ago, I booked a round-trip flight from Toronto to Chattanooga (layover in Atlanta) to attend a family wedding in mid-June.

Since my booking, Delta has changed the departure time of my return flight 4 times. With each change, the departure plane leaves earlier and earlier in the day. My latest flight is leaving Chattanooga 3 ½ hours earlier than originally planned, increasing the layover time in Atlanta.

While this may not seem like a big deal, I will be missing a family lunch in Chattanooga. My time with my family is precious to me since I don’t get to see them very often.

After several calls to Delta Customer Service, I was getting nowhere. There were no other available flights on Delta and by the time Delta started making changes to my itinerary, rebooking with another airline would have cost much more than my original ticket.

My husband recommended I try Twitter. I told him that I only followed 1 person, the District School Board (for the bus schedule), and I only had 18 followers. I have no idea why these folks follow me, since I do not tweet from my personal account. They must be really bored.

My husband assured me that his company reacts with lightning speed when someone complains on Twitter. Regardless of the number of followers of the dissatisfied customer.

So, I decided to give Twitter a try. I kept my Tweet factual and professional, yet with a hint of dismay.

It started with these words:

@Delta. Shame on you.

Here’s the full Tweet.

Within minutes of tweeting, I had a response from Delta. Delta asked me to private message the circumstances of my situation. Again, I was polite and succinct. I had already checked the flight schedule, so I knew there was no other flight which would leave later in the day and still arrive in Toronto at a reasonable hour. Yet I hoped to get something.

After going back and forth in private messages with Delta, I finally asked for the something I wanted.

Would Delta book another leg onto my flight which would put me in Chattanooga (rather than Atlanta) on my arrival trip?

That route was my first choice anyway, but the difference in price going to Chattanooga rather than Atlanta was very large. When I booked my flight originally, I decided to fly to Atlanta and catch a ride to Chattanooga with some relatives. Unfortunately, that would add several hours to my trip.

Without hesitation, Delta accepted the proposal and issued me a ticket for an additional flight.

I was very thankful for Delta’s quick action.

And I said so in a follow-up Tweet.

During this process, I managed to pick up a few more Twitter followers. Apparently, someone retweeted my original tweet to Delta.

With my 2nd Tweet, an even larger audience got to see how great Delta was in handling the situation.

Win for me. Win for Delta.

Here’s the 2nd public tweet.

And Delta’s response on Twitter.

This wasn’t my first complaint to a company. I’ve had several in my lifetime.

Please don’t get the idea that I am a habitual complainer. I’m not.

But I absolutely believe in paying a fair price for goods and services. If the goods and services don’t meet expectations, then as a customer, I have a right obligation to let the company know.

All my previous complaints took a lot more time and effort on my part. Before Twitter, I could spend hours on the phone with customer service (and still get nowhere).

Through the years, I’ve witnessed customer service get much, much worse. It has become a very frustrating process to reach someone at a company who can override the typical, scripted responses.

Thanks to Twitter, the ability to receive prompt, courteous customer service has gotten a lot easier.

If you decide to tweet a complaint, here are a few tips to help achieve a positive outcome:

1) Before airing your grievances on social media, try to reach out in a more traditional way. Many complaints can be effectively handled with a simple phone call or e-mail, if you’re fortunate to reach a responsible customer service representative. The company will appreciate you keeping your gripe private.

I recently had an unsatisfactory experience at a day spa.

Yes, I know, this is a real 1st world problem.

I was scheduled for a facial at a highly rated new spa. The cost of the hour service was $110. Although the service was fine, it only lasted about 40 minutes, well short of the full hour I was charged.

Rather than complaining while at the spa, I waited until I got home to voice my complaint. I didn’t want to create a scene in the lobby as it was full of clients. I also didn’t want to embarrass the esthetician.

By waiting till I got home, I had a chance to cool off, collect my thoughts and determine what I really wanted to accomplish with a complaint. I called the spa and explained the situation to the manager. I started with the positives: the spa was clean, I was greeted upon arrival, etc.

I then told the manager about my unsatisfactory experience. She was very appreciative of the call and said she wished more clients would call first before sharing a negative review online. She asked questions about the service saying that the feedback could help improve the business. She offered to repeat the service, which I really didn’t want. I told her I was scheduled to return in several weeks for a manicure/pedicure (in preparation for the upcoming family wedding). She offered to comp the service to give me another chance to experience the spa.

I really appreciated the manager taking the time to listen to my concerns and comp a service. No doubt she has won a new customer.

2) Do not threaten, berate or belittle. And certainly, don’t curse!

3) Be specific and factual.

4) Tug at the heartstrings.

Use words that elicit emotions of how you felt (disappointment, shame or sadness) rather than harsh words to describe the company (failure or incompetence).

5) Be brief.

With only 280 characters, there is no choice but to keep the message short. Choose your words carefully.

6) Paint a picture to which others can relate.

In my complaint to Delta, I used the fact that I was missing a family reunion. This was true, and I knew it would appeal to other people who would feel compassion in this situation.

7) If the company asks you to DM them, do it.

Every situation is unique and requires a unique response. The company may be hesitant to offer you their best resolution, if they know others will see it and ask for the same deal.

8) Take a few seconds on the company’s official website to make sure you have the correct Twitter handle.

Big companies like Delta may have several Twitter handles. Plus, you avoid fake accounts.

9) Once the situation is resolved, publicly thank the company for their service.

You don’t need to provide the specific terms of your arrangement with the company, but if they helped you, it’s worth showing your gratitude.

Of course, as more and more of us use Twitter to complain, it may become less useful. Still, right now, it’s one of the most effective and efficient ways to let a company know about poor service (or great service).

And let the world know at the same time.

6 thoughts on “How I Tweeted My Way to a Free Airline Ticket”

  • Airlines go back and forth on the exact time… but usually if they change a departure or arrival time by more than 90 minutes you can call and get free flight changes. All airlines I have flown on accommodate this… Delta, American, United… It not your fault and probably not theirs either… but an issue with flight scheduling coordinated with FAA or the airport… It’s a cost of business for them…

    I often buy the cheapest fare I can get for a given day and it seems the times will be moved at some point.. I’ll call and try to actually get on the flight I wanted to be on for the same price… it works 50-50… glad you got your extra leg ticket to spend some more time with family.


    • Hi Tim,

      I called Delta first. They were not very very sympathetic and offered no help. The biggest problem was working with flights for a small, regional airport. Chattanooga only has 4 gates, so flight choices are very limited. I was happy that we reached a resolution which worked with my schedule.

  • This falls right in line with the “you’ll catch more bees with honey” sentiment for sure. Whenever I see people making a scene at an airport I feel so bad for the employees there. Taking things offline like this also gives people a chance to make it right, as opposed to just solving a problem. Glad it worked out!

    • Hi Adam,

      I’ve also witnessed people making scenes at airports. I think that the stress of travel plus tired passengers creates an environment for situations to escalate pretty quickly.

  • Glad to hear you were able to come to a compromise with Delta and get an extra flight. So often the airline will just tell a passenger “no” and won’t even try to offer a solution. Adding the extra flight was a smart move!

    I think Twitter is a hidden gem in terms of improving customer service. I haven’t used it yet for any issues, but I keep it in the back of my mind if I really have a difficult situation.

    • I was happy to give Twitter a try for something as important as air travel. I’ll definitely keep it in mind for big issues which can’t be resolved over the phone.

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