CaseStudy: Tweets On a Plane: American Airlines Flies High with Masterful Response to Alec Baldwin’s ‘Words’ Rant

Alec Baldwin’s Twitter exchange with American Airlines’ crisis team drew thousands of retweets, eventually reaching five million-plus people.

Company: American Airlines Agency: Weber Shandwick Timeframe: Dec. 6-7, 2011
These days, hardly a plane leaves the tarmac without a passenger aboard tweeting a complaint about his or her seat, delayed departure, a screaming baby or a missed connection.
Several airlines now feature customer service hubs that monitor social media to lend a helping hand, including American Airlines. But when the complaint comes from a celebrity who has a bone to pick with the airline, the rule book gets tweaked, if not tossed aside altogether.
Such was the case on Dec. 6, 2011, when American Airlines crew members responded to an incident involving actor Alec Baldwin on a flight from Los Angeles to New York. According to witnesses, the incident began when Baldwin was asked by a flight attendant to turn off his mobile phone in preparation for takeoff, a clear FAA regulation.
At the time, Baldwin was playing the popular Scrabble-like game Words With Friends on his smartphone. After being asked to turn off his phone and refusing, the plane went back to the gate and Baldwin was removed from the flight, at which point he began tweeting to his then 600,000 followers.
Within a few minutes, 2,722 people had re-tweeted Baldwin’s messages, which quickly spread among five million people. News outlets picked up the story shortly thereafter.


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