Airline customer service reps and social media mavens are on watch this week after a disgruntled passenger paid to bash a carrier to 77,000 travelers via Twitter.
Hasan Syed, 28, of Chicago, spent $1,000 using Twitter's self-service ad platform to elevate a series of frustrated tweets about British Airways on Tuesday.
The impetus for the rant was fairly common: When Syed's father arrived in Paris for a business trip, his luggage failed to arrive with him.
After dealing with customer service representatives at the airport, his father was told that he would be contacted at his hotel when the bags were found. But after two days there was still no word and Syed senior had to cancel a second leg of his trip to Dusseldorf because he needed materials contained in the luggage.
It was then that he asked his son to elevate the issue to social media.
"If it was just me, I probably wouldn't have done it," said Syed, who, along with his father, works in personal care products. "But because my father asked me to, I did."
When attempts to track down his father's luggage went unanswered for an hour by British Airways' online representatives, Syed was aghast.
"That's when I got furious," he told ABC News. "Social media is a real-time channel. I understand we've become a society of instant gratification. But with BA being so large, having a global footprint, and all of the resources at their disposal, I was pretty annoyed that they couldn't respond right away."
Using Twitter's self-service ad platform, he targeted a series of complaining tweets so that they'd be seen by British Airways travelers based in New York and London markets.
What is taking @British_Airways customer service so long? They've had over a day to figure this out.— ? (@HVSVN) September 3, 2013
Eight hours later, after the tweets had been seen by 77,000 passengers and even picked up by some media outlets, British Airways responded, asking Syed to send them the parcel information.
"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."
"I was like, are you not following the news? You need to DM me," said Syed, who was already following the carrier.
When both parties finally did connect, Syed passed along the correct claim number for the baggage, which had been located.
"We would like to apologize to the customer for the inconvenience caused. We have been in contact with the customer and the bag was delivered," British Airways told ABC News.
The luggage was hand-delivered to Syed's father in Paris, who was then able to proceed to Hamburg.
Now Syed is hoping to move on, as well.
"No one likes complainers and whiners," he said. "I look at people who are overly whiny with disdain, myself. But I had an objective behind it and a legitimate complaint. I feel like this was a one-time thing."
But some in the industry suspect it's only the beginning for others inspired by Syed's ingenuity.
Interesting; a disgruntled customer is buying a promoted tweet slamming a brand where they had a bad experience. That's a new trend itself!— Marty St. George (@martysg) September 3, 2013