Promoted tweet used to complain about British Airways

By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter

  • Published
Bag on a carousel
Image caption,
Lost luggage is a common problem for airline customers

In a modern spin on the tale of David and Goliath, a disgruntled customer has found a new way to use social media to take on a big corporation.

Fed up with the way British Airways was handling the issue of his father's lost luggage, businessman Hasan Syed decided to complain about it.

But rather than just put out a normal tweet, he paid to have one promoted.

Using promoted tweets in this way could represent a new trend, experts believe.

Long delay

The promoted tweet bought by Mr Syed reads: "Don't fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous."

Promoted tweets are generally bought by advertisers who want to reach a wider audience. The paid-for tweet is given high prominence in the Twitter feed of the relevant company but otherwise acts as a normal message and can be retweeted by others.

Mr Syed purchased his paid-for tweet via Twitter's self-service ad platform for an undisclosed sum. He targeted New York and UK markets with the tweet.

The decision to highlight BA's customer service came following a trip his parents made from Chicago to Paris at the weekend, during which his father lost his luggage.

Six hours after the tweet went live, and was picked up by news website Mashable, it had been read by thousands of Twitter users, retweeted and commented on.

But it took another four hours for British Airways to pick up on it: "Sorry for the delay in responding, our twitter feed is open 09:00-17:00 GMT. Please DM [direct message] your baggage ref and we'll look into this."

The idea that the ad platform of large corporations can be hijacked by members of the public is an interesting trend, thinks Shashank Nigam, chief executive of aviation consultancy SimpliFlying.

"The implications are tremendous for the future of airline customer service, especially on social media," he said in his blog.

"These tools are easy to use and brand detractors have the same access to them as corporations. I'd guess that this cost less than a thousand dollars to buy and Mr Syed targeted it smartly," Mr Nigam told the BBC.

"Airlines are going to have to start having 24/7 customer services and maybe they need to train up call centre reps to respond to messages on Facebook and Twitter."

In this particular case, the tweet appears to have been successful.

"We would like to apologise to the customer for the inconvenience caused. We have been in contact with the customer and the bag is due to be delivered today," British Airways told the BBC.