Can Social Media Take the Credit?

4 Nov

Recently while flying home from Alaska I encountered a flight interruption in New York due to mechanical problems with the airplane. Well, in New York that is not really a surprise to me since for as long as I have been travelling, if I am to run into a travelling issue it will usually reveal itself in New York.
As I landed in New York from Minneapolis my phone sounded off with a message from Delta informing me that my flight would be delayed by an hour. That in itself is not too discouraging and not really uncommon. While I waited in the lounge with an occasional walk through the concourse the loudspeaker announced the cancellation of Delta flight 6123 to Halifax. The message continued with the usual jibber jabber to visit their web site or their service desk for re-booking arrangements. Of course immediately following the message the departure flight board displayed the traditional red message indicating that indeed the flight was cancelled. As I was up and walking around already I proceeded to the service desk which just happens to be a short distance from where I stood.
Upon arriving the agent was already processing another passenger which it seems had already been delayed from the day before. They had undoubtedly not been treated to their satisfaction previously by their demeanor. But things were as they were. Partly listening in on the conversation, a point difficult to avoid with the close proximity, the agent was expounding that the flight interruption was due to weather in Halifax. To which the passengers did not believe in the least and were letting their views be known. Now during this time as you might expect the stream of additional passengers began to arrive with of course each one expressing similar dissatisfaction with Delta. Many expressed to me the same comments that they too, had flight interruptions from the previous day. I could overhear the same comments from all, as they discussed the issue amongst themselves. All of the passengers were making references that the weather was quite acceptable in Halifax.
During this time an additional agent arrived on the scene with what I assume was a supervisor by his red jacket, to handle the additional rebooking traffic. Now the passenger which was being processed on my arrival had just completed their re-booking and had stepped away from the counter, no doubt trying to decide where and how they would find acceptable lodging arrangements since they now had to spend an additional night in New York. As the new agent was processing my re-booking and before I could ask, the supervisor advised me that they were booking me a room and proceeded to verbally announce that they had 7 rooms presently but were in the process to book some additional rooms. Luckily the first passengers were close enough that they could be re-called to provide them with a room as well.
What strikes me as interesting however in this flight interruption is that more than a few people were openly speaking of how the weather was not inappropriate in Halifax and many were displaying their cell phones with open facebook pages and Halifax weather reports indicating the “present” conditions in Halifax.
Now I know for several years now in coffee room discussions I have been saying that one of the powerful things that the internet will and is bringing to the world is the instant communications to the people. As well I always have been adding that with all of the social networking going on and with new ones opening up all of the time, that just maybe it alone, will pressure governments and agencies worldwide to re-think and re-adjust their crisis management techniques.
Before all of this facebook and twitter and all of the others becoming main stream, we were all at the mercy of agencies which for all intent and purposes could manipulate information without too much fear of general populace dissatisfaction. Now people are coming to officials already armed with on the minute information of their own to refute any possible story which might be presented by those providing a service.
Do I believe that Delta on this occasion provided the accommodation solely from pressures imposed by the social media? Likely they did not, however maybe this is truly the information age that we have been hearing about for so long? Can we dare to hope that agencies are more cautious of their behavior? Perhaps they are and going forward just might possibly deal with the open public with much more tact, and responsibility? Perhaps even openly admit when a problem exist with their systems and not look for a convenient bogus escape goat which might absolve them of their responsibilities.
Let’s all hope that both side of the fence will now treat each other a little more openly and honestly. We can hope can’t we? The world IS changing, get onboard or you will lose out.

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