Word-of-mouth marketing is fast becoming a key to marketing success for airlines because so many customers discuss their experiences on the Web.
But rather than taking advantage of social media opportunities, most carriers are making little effort to control the conversations customers are having about them, Harteveldt said. Instead, disgruntled travelers' comments go unaddressed on community forums such as FlyerTalk and in blogs such as Cranky Flier.
The most egregious example of such neglect, Harteveldt said, is a blog started by American Airlines in April, when the FAA grounded the company's fleet of MD-80 planes to perform maintenance checks. The blog had a few posts that month but, as of press time, had not been updated since then.
Harteveldt said he gives American credit for attempting to use a blog to respond to a crisis; however, he said, the airline didn't follow through and deserves the criticism it's received in the blogosphere. (One sardonic blog headline read “American Airlines' blog is as good as its flights.”)
“They did the worst possible thing,” Harteveldt said. “They entered the social networking space and then botched it, adding insult to injury.” M