Frustrated tweets new headache for airlines

Tue Aug 18, 2009 9:11pm EDT
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By Kyle Peterson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Indignant letters, e-mails and phone calls can still get results for unhappy airline travelers, but more are finding that if you really want to vent your frustrations, you can now be loud and fast and public.

At least that's the buzz on Twitter, where airlines are discovering that fuming passengers who have been stranded, delayed or just plain piqued are increasingly letting their undiluted rage fly around the Internet, often from the confines of their cramped airplane seat.

Twitter and other fast-growing social networking websites like Facebook and YouTube have sprung up as yet another front in beleaguered airlines public relations battle.

Although such sites have practical uses for airlines -- say, publicizing fare sales and flight information -- experts said the technology has put carriers on the defensive as they race to tame Twitter furies every day.

"It's almost an underground rage factory," said Terry Trippler, at, a travel opinion website. "Rarely, I see Twitter messages praising an airline. It's usually attacking an airline."

Twitter, which lets people broadcast 140-character instant text messages to countless readers, has quickly been embraced as a powerful tool to counter censorship. Twitter messages, or "tweets," from Iranian protesters after the recent disputed elections became a running part of the drama.

On last Wednesday morning, Twitter's featured posts about airlines included the following:

"Screw american airlines. Every plane has Been broken. Gah. So done," read one post from Twitter user sheissilenttoo.   Continued...

<p>Kate Hanni, founder of, is interviewed during a "Strand In" event in Washington, in this September 19, 2007 handout photograph, released on August 17, 2009. REUTERS/</p>