There are plenty of Twitter rants and raves when it comes to airline travel.  Travelers who have turned to Twitter to vent about a particular situation have found themselves standing at the gate when the plane pushes back and taxis to the runway.

Increasingly, customers are using social media to voice complaints and field requests and queries –and they’re getting responses.

But, if you don’t think airlines are paying attention and protecting their online reputation, you should read about the man who was removed from a Southwest Airlines plane after a tweet complaining about a rude gate agent.  He was forced to delete the tweet or the airline would not let him and his kids on the flight. Southwest later apologized and sent the man some travel vouchers for its overreaction to the complaint.

With all of this in mind, here are my do’s, and don’s, for tweeting an airline:

1. Do: Be polite

Using Twitter is no different than dealing with a gate agent over an issue with your seat assignment or your ticket.  If you get all worked up, you’re just shooting the messenger.  The people monitoring social media for airlines are very aware of how quickly an incident on a plane can become a lead news story, so they will pay attention, but more so when you handle it professionally and politely.

2. Do: Be direct

You only have 140 characters to make your point. This should go without saying, but a barrage of 140 character tweets discussing the nuances of what’s happening won’t get you any anywhere.  You’ll just look like your nuts.  Alert the airline to what’s happening with a single tweet to their handle. Believe me, they will see it.  They can then direct you to take the appropriate action or take the action on their end, depending on the issue.

3. Do: Be understanding

You are not the only one with problems and these guys get beat up every day, even though they had nothing to do with whatever your issue happens to be.  For more on this just re-read rule 1.

4. Do: Be Gracious

When they help you out, make a big deal out of it.  Tweet them about your happiness with their service and let your followers know just how great they are.  Believe it or not, the airlines actually want you to be happy, despite how hard it may be to reconcile that notion with your actual travel experience.  Show them some love and they may even re-tweet you to millions of travelers

5. Don’t: Expect an airline to do everything over Twitter

You are probably going to have to email someone, fill out a web form, or speak to someone on the phone depending on what your particular issue happens to be.

6. Don’t: Expect a reply right away

Some airlines may be a little behind in their response times.  Here’s a report from last year on this exact topic.

7. Don’t: Get frustrated with short answers

You reached out with Twitter and they answered you back via the same channel.  You’re both limited, unless you want to get on the phone or fill out an online form.

8. Don’t: Forget that they're human

There are real people working behind that Twitter handle and not some computer named Hal.  They are trying their best to make you happy, answer your questions, or get you to where you need to go.  If all else fails, remember what your mom always told you:  Treat others the same way that you want to be treated.

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