Skip to main content

Customer uses promoted tweet to complain about BA

Sign of things to come? Social media helps to empower disgruntled consumer amid lost luggage row


British Airways apologised and returned the luggage but only after the customer had spent $1,000 on a Twitter campaign

A customer whose father’s luggage was lost by British Airways has taken the novel approach of paying for a promoted tweet to voice his discontent.

Businessman Hasan Syed decided to take the very public approach to complaining after claiming that BA’s handling of his father’s lost luggage – which occurred before or after travelling between Chicago and Paris at the weekend – was unacceptable.

Novel approach

The disgruntled customer decided to use Twitter’s self-service ad platform to pay for a promoted Tweet for $1,000, then targeted it at current and potential BA customers, mainly in the UK and US.

The tweet – which read “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.” – quickly went viral, receiving nearly 80,000 impressions and was picked up by the website Mashable, which shared it with thousands of followers.

By the time it was seen by BA’s official Twitter account four hours later, it had been read and commented on by thousands of people.

BA’s response stated: “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.”


Thousands of customers engaged with Mr Syed’s tweets following his promoted complaint

Future consequences

The response to Mr Syed’s course of action was a combination of admiration and predictions about what it may mean for big companies who fail to deal with customer complaints adequately.

Marty St George, senior vice-president of marketing and commercial at JetBlue Airways, tweeted: “Interesting; a disgruntled customer is buying a promoted tweet slamming a brand where they had a bad experience. That’s a new trend itself!”

Meanwhile, Shashank Nigam, chief executive of aviation consultancy SimpliFlying, said that the implications are “tremendous” for the future of airline customer service, particularly on social media.

He told the BBC: “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.”

British Airways has since apologised to the customer for the inconvenience caused, with the bag now returned to Mr Syed’s father.

Despite a final spend of $1,000, Mr Syed took to Twitter to announce his victory: “I got what I wanted. I win.”

Do you agree? Does social media make corporations more accountable to customers? And was it worth paying $1,000 to make the point Mr Syed did or would travel insurance have sufficed?
Have your say below.

  • M Salha

    Must’ve been cathartic. But who is the real winner here? In my eyes, BA have just got a whole lot of free advertising. Every airline loses luggage, so the negative effect of his tweet is minimal. People on Twitter just love baying for blood.

    Social media certainly helps make corporations more accountable (until every other customer re-routes their complaints and it become unmanageable). Ultimately, this trend will only be for the rich to air their grievances and these big corporations will continue to prosper.