A recent string of viral videos has hit the internet, exposing the numerous customer service issues currently plaguing the American aviation industry. Will this be a catalyst for change in customer service and company regulations and policies?

Over the last two months, a string of viral videos has hit the internet, exposing the numerous customer service issues currently plaguing the American aviation industry.

Last April 2017, David Dao was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville. This led to UA stocks to plummet tremendously. A string of congressional hearings also took place, addressing their poor customer service. In May 2017 alone, a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to Oakland fought with another traveler during a stopover and was arrested by authorities. This was followed by a huge fistfight between passengers and sheriff’s deputies when Spirit Airlines, due to a labor dispute, suddenly canceled nine flights leaving travelers confused as to what to do next. And finally, Jet Blue flight personnel recently kicked off a family due to a dispute over a birthday cake.

Each incident listed above went viral on almost all the popular social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. This, of course, is the norm in today’s digital age. Events are quickly captured, posted, and spread. Public opinion and reactions are just as quickly posted and received. Every business has a website as well as social media accounts. Everyone is competing for customer and audience attention. Terms such as digital marketing, search engine optimization, Content marketing, site analytics are now essential tools to help businesses grow, to gain more sales and traffic.

So what are businesses – specifically these airline companies to do in the digital age where the customer seems to have the power to quickly sway public opinion and sympathy? Do companies immediately bend and try their best to solve issues as quickly and quietly as they can to avoid going viral? Or do they stand firm and implement their policies regardless of how seemingly unfair it is to the customer?

More importantly, will regulations and policies change? Will companies feel pressured to improve and change practices in the long run? That remains to be seen. During the congressional hearings, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz apologized and promised: “to do better.” What they’ll do to make things better is still unclear.

What is clear though is that in today’s age of social media and viral videos, companies now realize that they have to be quick to respond to issues and challenges. Customer Service standards and practices have to be reviewed constantly to ensure that their behavior won’t be viral video worthy.

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