AA v. Alec Baldwin kerfuffle shows the power of tech

Krystal Peak · December 7, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/2262
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Some mobile games are important enough to get booted from a flight

In case you missed it, Alec Baldwin was booted from an American Airlines flight yesterday afternoon at LAX because the popular Zynga mobile application Words with Friends is just too darn addictive to follow FAA guidelines.

Tuesday afternoon, Baldwin tweeted that he was being reprimanded for having his phone on while the plane was still at the gate and eventually he was escorted off the plane and caught a later flight.

This incident caused a Twitter landslide that brought up several issues when flying and dealing with big brands in the digital age, especially with the level of clout coming from an A-list celebrity with more than 500,000 Twitter followers.

I am sure that American Airlines was none-to-pleased to hear about the occurance either, since the company filed for bankruptcy this week and has had a serious shake-up in the leadership team over the last two days -- the last thing they needed was a media debacle of Baldwin proportions.

How a possible @AmericanAir fail turned into @Zynga win

Let's face it, the best part of @AlecBaldwin's tweet was the glorious detail that he was playing Words with Friends. Immediately most people that heard this must have thought of the sheer randomness that they play the same mobile game with their best friend as Baldwin does.

I would really like to know who he was playing with. Could it have been his famous yogalates-to-the-stars girlfriend Hilaria Thomas or, dare I suggest, his 30 Rock Co-Star Tina Fey? One can only dream of the friendly tete-a-tete between those two. Did he in-game chat with his partner about the public commotion going on as he debated where to get a triple letter score? The places this line of thinking took me was limitless -- but I digress.

The 30 Rock star didn't end with the mere mention of WWF, he went on to discuss his love of the game and how United Airlines should buy the game for its passengers (where he insinuated he would be flying in the future.)

The IPO-anticipating Zynga has always had buzz for its mobile word-o-riffic game and fairly soon after the Baldwin mention, WWF was trending on Twitter.

Zynga also jumped onto the bandwagon by tweeting its decree that people shouldn't ground the most beloved Baldwin for being a die-hard WWF player. The company even followed-up with an official statement in the form of a WWF board.

This little distraction from the San Francisco gaming company's upcoming IPO looks like a wanted distraction and a highlight of one of the few games that the company has successfully gained mobile traction with.

The PR whirlwind also helps illustrate a point that the gaming company has been trying to leverage to possible investors -- its games are really, really addictive.

I'm seeing a celeb commercial opportunity here. Picture it: Twin Alec Baldwins playing WWF with one another and touting their obession with completing the game no matter what.

I'm just going to throw that one out there and cross my fingers.

Tech dependance and FAA regulations don't mix

It also seems quite timely that Baldwin would be reprimanded for having his phone on within the plane when discussions resurfaced in recent weeks over the validity of FAA regulations limiting the time and usage of cell phones and other electronic devices during flight and within an aircraft.

According to the FAA regulatory board, "There are still unknowns about the radio signals that portable electronic devices (PEDs) and cell phones give off. These signals, especially in large quantities and emitted over a long time, may unintentionally affect aircraft communications, navigation, flight control and electronic equipment."

But it seems that the pushback from fliers, that have so little that they can carry aboard, has gotten the bandwagon a-moving on challenging the FAA regulation of electronics. A petition has been publicized to allow airline passengers to use mobile devices as long as they are in "airplane mode" throughout the course of a flight.

As of Tuesday evening, the petition had 1,003 signatures and needs 25,000 by Jan. 3 to gain attention from the White House. Perhaps this airline arguments will spur interest in the petition once again.

Even if this petition doesn't gain steam this time around, it seems like a matter of time before more airline patrons finally demand more rationale than "unknowns" to keep them off their iPads, mobile phones and laptops.

American Airline's official Twitter handle @AmericanAir responded to many inquiries with statements that their "flight attendants were following federal safety procedures on electronic devices when aircraft door is closed."

Even some of the Twitter backlash on Baldwin for using his phone despite regulations seemed funny considering that several of the comments from people on the flight were tweeted as the incident occurred -- illustrating that many people disregard the regulation anyway (or at least for celebrity breaking news.)

PR nightmares are here to stay on Twitter platform

Alec Baldwin is not the first celebrity to tweet problems with a major brand, especially an airline.

The actor/director Kevin Smith tweeted an issue with SouthWest when he was forced to leave the flight for his size, causing a firestorm for the airline and a national discussion about the treatment of airplane patrons of a certain proportion.

Then SouthWest hit the lottery again when actress/singer Leisha Hailey live-tweeted a flight attendant kicking her and her girlfriend off a flight for kissing.

The immediacy, the mammoth followings and the viral nature of social media can be a tactical nightmare for brands to predict and handle once an incident occurs.

The @AmericanAir handle quickly responded to @AlecBaldwin's tweet then created a canned response to others tweeting about the gate-side kerfuffle. Both resonable responses but not likely to be enough for the public or for Baldwin to drop the issue of tech on planes and quick decisons made by flight crews.

This is just the latest in what is sure to be a constant carousel of PR responses by global brands after social media outcries.

The world of public relations has been forever changed by social media and, possibly for the first time since companies got so big that they had to hire warehouse-size call centers, the consumer has a bit more leverage with what they say. But it also shows that flight attendants have even more pull than someone with half a million people listening to their every word.

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