The travel industry using social media as a marketing channel makes complete sense and for the most part, travel organisations can be commended on their social media activity.

However, in lieu of the Econsultancy/Turkish Airlines Social Media and the Travel Sector Trends briefing, it seems that sometimes things can turn sour. Here are a few examples… 


A few months ago, Tourism Australia’s new $150m advertising campaign launched. Using the slogan, “There’s nothing like Australia”, Aussie nationals were crowdsourced in an effort to create compelling verbal and visual snapshots of the country. Yet, within a matter of hours, the campaign had been hijacked, with a spoof blog emerging. 

Although this in itself could be potentially crippling to any campaign, what makes this partly worse is the lack of digital execution by Tourism Australia, namely by not registering the variation URLs of their website. Only holding the .com address ensured that was able to be registered by, some suspect, New Zealand’s own tourism board. 


Anything negative that’s floating around the internet isn’t usually great. However, it’s often exacerbated through social sharing and bookmarking, as this allows online content to spread quickly – and can even effect natural search rankings. Virgin found itself as an unlikely piece of viral content in this way, following what many people are referring to as the funniest-ever passenger complaint letter.

The Telegraph’s article has been “Dugg” nearly 6,500 times alone:

“You open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing. That’s how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this…”

Online video

Generating more than three million views in less than a week on YouTube alone, United Breaks Guitars is a video that everyone’s heard of. The destruction of Dave Carroll’s instrument by United Airlines , followed by their complete lack of customer care, ensured that an unknown Canadian country and western singer would cause a bit of a social media headache for the airline operator, especially when it was picked up by the mainstream media. 

Social networks 

Returning again to Virgin, the airline infamously fired a number of staff, following insulting messages towards passengers on Facebook and jokes about faulty plane engines. 

Equally, a Facebook group of BA Gatwick staff caused a stir after they attacked passengers online, following the opening of terminal 5 at Heathrow. Both cases are now often used as case studies to highlight the importance of establishing corporate social media guidelines for staff, both inside and outside of work.


 The speed and reach of the channel can be a bit problematic for organisations, especially when combined with the influence that some individuals have within the sphere. Focusing especially on Twitter, there a number of instances where individuals have created issues for travel companies.

One of the most recent is that of Kevin Smith vs. Southwest, where Smith, a film director, was told to leave a flight, as the crew thought he was too heavy to be sat in a single seat. Smith quickly began unleashing an attack on the company via Twitter and was joined by many of his 1.6m followers.

Although various issues within this instance can be heavily debated, the frantic backpedalling from Southwest and the subsequent media frenzy arguably gave some the company a considerable amount of negative press.