US Airways Tweets Porn to Complaining Passenger, Apologizes Later

US Airways

US Airways probably had the worst Twitter gaffe ever when it mistakenly tweeted a porn picture to at least one complaining passenger. The airline apologized to the passenger later on when it realized the mistake and removed the image, but not before a large number of Twitter users had already retweeted the image.

Several passengers had complained to the airline via Twitter for the discomfort or other problems they had to face due to a recent flight delay. One of the passengers, in a series of tweets, took to complaining of her discomfort during the delayed flight and asked for “free stuff” as a means of compensation for ruining her spring break.

In reply, US Airways apologized for the delay, to which the irate passenger tweeted back that an apology was not enough. She also questioned the failure of the airline to address her previous complaints. Eventually, US Airways tweeted a link to the disgruntled customer asking for feedback. However, the link did not match the description and what followed was an extremely graphic image featuring a nude woman lying exposed on a bed with a toy plane (ironically!) between her legs.

The pornographic image had been initially tweeted @USAirways via another individual’s Twitter handle. Somehow, US Airways mistakenly included it in its tweeted response to at least one complaining passenger. One of the Twitter users, who had also complained to the airline, responded back that the tweet “was not appropriate at all.” Once the embarrassing gaffe was discovered, the airline deleted the image and followed it with an apology. US Airways also said that they are investigating the incident to figure out how such an error had been committed.

Matt Miller, the spokesman for American Airlines, which is under a merger with US Airways, said: “We deeply regret the mistake and we are currently reviewing our processes to prevent such errors in the future.” He added that no employee was fired over the incident.

Twitter has exploded with commentary on the issue. However, this is not the first time a mistake had been made by a firm over a social media website. According to the CEO of a social media consultation for businesses, Likeable Media, Carrie Kerpen, companies all over the world are desperate to make their mark among the clutter of rival firms.

She said that social media platforms help firms to stay amidst conversations with their customers but the firms should be very cautious on how they develop online conversations. Kerpen said that brands involving themselves with social media are also “real people having conversations” and therefore, there is always room for error. However, she said, firms should always be prepared with a contingency plan should something go wrong on the social media.

Kerpen advised the best thing any firm can do in such a situation is to own up to their mistake and apologize and immediately set itself to rectifying the mistake. People understand that mistakes can be made and are always more willing to forgive if a firm owns up to its error. She also said the best thing about social media is that people move away from a topic just as quickly as they get on to a topic and therefore, firms do not usually suffer lasting effects of a social media blunder.

US Airways may have made a gaffe of the red-faced kind when it tweeted a porn image in response to a customer complaint, but it is certainly not alone in facing strong public reactions. Various other firms, including Campbell, Chrysler, Home Depot and Kenneth Cole have endured similar experiences with mistakes on social media with social media messages that were off-putting or offensive for the intended audiences. In due course, just like US Airways, all the other firms also deleted the offensive material and apologized to the public.

By Faryal Najeeb

Sources:
USA Today
NY Daily News
Detroit Free Press

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