It's so easy for a company's social media campaign to go belly up. Maybe it's a ham-fisted attempt to manufacture positive support. Or maybe forget something basic, like not overwhelming the audience with too many posts.

In this case, the setting was New Year's Eve. The place, Twitter. The company, American Airlines. The issue: video producer Andrew Kimmel posts a long thread about a scary time in Mexico in search of qualifying for frequent flier status and the carrier responds in a light-hearted manner. And AA becomes a subject of merriment with a reader providing a succinct and pithy bit of advice.

Kimmel was writing about returning from Indonesia and being informed that although his mileage well over the requirement, the qualifying dollars (because having one requirement like mileage isn't enough) were short of maintaining his frequent customer status. The airline reportedly wanted $1875 to retain the privilege so, instead, he paid $400 for what was supposed to be a 24-hour jaunt to Mexico.

I emailed him for an interview but didn't hear back (according to his timeline he has other more pressing things), so will try to give a taste of what happened. But, really, you want to read the entire thing.

  • He rents a room and car and ultimately goes to a bar which presents him with a $300 bill for two beers.
  • His credit card isn't working because of fraud detection and his phone battery is dead.
  • The bar manager demands he use an ATM, which Kimmel didn't, so calls the police and, in the process, steals Kimmel's debit card and passport.
  • He gets locked up with some guy who's more worried about what his wife will do to him than being in jail.
  • Eventually, a woman from Kenya that Kimmel doesn't know springs for his bail. She was arrested for supposedly not paying an Uber driver.
  • The woman, who becomes his "jail crush," and he get to the airport and more complications.

Oh, just read the original thread. You'll either be cringing or shaking your head. Or maybe laughing a little (because it is a cruel world). But the main point is that if someone talks about how their effing night went, you can bet the tale won't be cheery.

Which brings us to the American Airlines social media team, which notices that they've been tagged and so pretty promptly reply.

I emailed American Airlines, which replied in an email that read in part, "We responded to Mr. Kimmel's original tweet prior to him sharing his full story" and noted that time stamps showed his first tweet was at 5:38 p.m., their response at 5:45 p.m., "and his story began at 5:46 p.m. - see below)."

I go back to the idea that if someone starts talking about how their effing night went, you might take it as a clue that things were possibly pretty bad.

A little later, the American Airlines social media people posted the following:

According to the company's emailed statement to me, "We subsequently communicated with Mr. Kimmel via direct message, and our airport team in Los Cabos took care of him, including working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ensure he could fly without a passport back to the United States on Dec. 31."

Which could well be. Kimmel's Twitter thread doesn't end until close to 8:00. But it might have been solved faster had people noticed that the guy seemed upset from the get go.