Twitter Helps Airline Customer Service Take Off

(NECN/CNN) - Between packed planes and winter weather, airline customer service agents can be taxed during the holiday travel period, and passengers' patience short. But before you get in line for that gate agent, you might want to consider another option. When it comes to airline customer service, Twitter is one tool that's really taking off.

Airlines got on board with social media awhile ago, offering special fares on Facebook pages, Tweeting last minute offers, even offering travel tips. But as more passengers started reaching out, airlines noticed some missed connections.

"We were listening to their feedback but we weren't always there to help them," said Jerry Fletcher, manager of social media at Delta. "They were talking, but we weren't listening."

So, for some airlines, Twitter is taking off as a customer service tool, just like phone calls or airport agents, helping get a handle on personal interactions in a very public forum.

At Delta's Atlanta headquarters, a team of customer service reps has been turned into full-time, dedicated tweeters behind the airline's "Delta Assist."

"We have software that allows us to manage the tweets to assign them to different folks and tag and prioritize accordingly," said Fletcher.

From 7 a.m. until midnight East Coast time, they field passenger questions about everything from refunds to weather delays.

With more carriers adding in-flight wi-fi, you may even have questions about connections and re-booking answered before you hit the ground.

"It really is a very very effective, real-time, quick way of communicating back and forth with the airline," said George Hobica of

So the next time you're irked about a grounded flight or a lost bag, consider that a Tweet might speak louder than words.

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