Nov
22
2011

How a tweet got Spirit Airlines fined for $50,000

Tweets got an airline fined for $50,000

Tweets got an airline fined for $50,000

‘What you see is what you get’. An age old adage that’s no longer valid, or may be it’s been rewritten by Social Media to ‘what one tweets is not what you get’. Confused?

Reading between lines or asking ‘what’s the catch’ everytime you see anything tempting might turn out to be a good option. Spirit Airlines, a Florida based airline reassures this point.

Spirit Airlines tweeted about the availability of unusually low priced one-way tickets ($9), each way fares to and from Los Angeles. A tweet like that must have surely been retweeted a zillion (is that a lot?) times and people would have responded in huge numbers. Whether it was a cheap marketing gimmick or some ingenious plan to attract people, it backfired on those very people who made you retweet it. There is no way to know if they attracted the traffic, they had wished for, but they sure invited a whole lot of expensive trouble.

For the $9 fares, all they revealed were the tickets prices but conveniently forgot (?) to mention the additional taxes, fees, et al. The result? A fine of $50,000 along with irked customers. Ouch!

The airlines defended themselves by stating that the additional costs were revealed when the tickets were purchased. Again that’s something that we aren’t sure whether it’s true or not. The U.S Department of Transportation fined them for violating federal rules deceptive price advertising.

“Only after visiting the (Spirit) airlines’ website were the taxes and fees disclosed, but the amounts were still kept hidden until a second click. Also, Spirit didn’t print the tax and fee amounts on billboards and hand-held posters also used to advertise the new service.”

Was it bad advertising, plain bad luck or an unsuccessful attempt of getting noticed on a social media through twitter? Spirit Airlines are the best people to answer that. They must have never thought that a careless (or well-strategised?) tweet would cost them so much. The rest of us can debate, if it was too harsh a punishment, or too stupid a mistake. The people who feel cheated after the massive goof-up, will be strongly opinionated and would agree with the fine slap. Few might think it was taken a tad too far. The rest won’t really bother about this but it would benefit us if we learn from this incident.

Spirit Airlines will make sure of not repeating this again. They might just disappear from the twitter scene, or for their own sake, stop offering such deals. Whatever they do, they should tread carefully in the future. Till then, karma is happy doing its part.

Next time a tweet sells you a ticket, make sure there are no hidden costs. Literally!

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About the Author:

A crazy girl enroute to make all her dreams come true. If you’d like to connect with her, follow her on Twitter: @alekhya2104

  • Anonymous

    Interesting observation. Tweets do have the potential of changing a LOT around us. Just a small anecdote: A few days back at a gig at ITC hotels, water was being sold at the bar for Rs.100. A tweet from me made ITC correct that and everyone got water for free.

    I hv many more such stories abt Tweets that changed. We can have a whole server dedicated to that.

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