EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – Whether it's lost bags, a delayed flight, or poor service, everyone does it sooner or later: complain about an airline. One young man from Eau Claire is using humor in response to thousands of people who have something to say about their airline problems.
19-year-old Mitchell Thompson is the founder of the Twitter account @unitedairlanes, not to be mistaken with United Airlines. The one letter difference has led hundreds of people to tweet his account with complaints about the airline. But the whole thing is a parody and it's clear just by looking at some of the tweets and responses, after some tweeters mistaken his account for the real @United:
@raheelk: Not flying @unitedairlanes again. Pathetic service at Newark airport & quite possibly the worst airline food I have ever had.
@unitedairlanes: @Raheelk You mean PROPHETIC service. Everyone at our Newark branch can see the future. #Powerball #16-45-32-9-29 #PB17
Thompson said his comedic tweets all started at a busy airport.
“I was flying back from O'Hare in Chicago and there was a huge delay, like hours and hours because there were storms coming up from the south and hundreds of people were just yelling at each other,” said Thompson, a 2012 Memorial High School graduate. “And I’m just sitting alone with my bag with almost nothing to do so I open up my phone, I created a Twitter account to just kind of vent what I was feeling at the time in a humorous kind of quirky way.”
One quirky tweet from Thompson in May 2013 turned into a firestorm of followers and complaining tweets. Thompson said he tweeted on and off with his @UnitedAirlanes account and eventually quit after things started to die down.
“Then a week or so ago, I checked in on it again, just kind of curious what had happened to it. And so for months and months and months people had been accidentally tweeting to it with their complaints about United's service,” said Thompson.
As of 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, August 7th, he’s reached nearly 19,000 followers and the numbers are growing by the hour.
Thompson said people will typically complain about flight delays, poor service and high ticket prices.
“I’ll kind of latch onto one thing that they say. Like one guy complained that they lost his dog, for example, and I kind of took that a bit further. It’s like, oh we can’t take pets on an aircraft because they evaporate at a given altitude,” he said.
Thompson said he completed his freshman year at UW-Stevens Point but wants to continue his freelance work as a web developer. But with the Twitter account taking off, he also said he’s thinking about monetizing it by creating t-shirts and memorabilia with a logo and jokes that go along with airline complaints.
“It just started snowballing and getting more and more responses. Every time I thought it was kind of going to phase out, it just kept on going,” he said.
News and social media sites have hopped on the United Airlanes bandwagon too, with sites like CNET, Daily Mail and even the Huffington Post writing articles and blogs about the humor behind Thompson’s tweets.
“It is kind of fun having a bigger audience to appreciate things I say,” said Thompson who normally has his friends to turn to for comedic relief. Now the crowd is worldwide and numbers in the thousands.
When asked whether he thinks he's taking jabs at the actual United Airlines, Thompson said he hopes United would have a sense of humor.
“I saw their account and saw what they were kind of doing with it, and every time they tweet something out, they get an enormous amount of hate and vitriol back from it where they say something and people are like, yeah but I hate your delays and I hate all of that. So I feel like I’m kind of deflecting some of that and defusing it. So they might actually appreciate it,” said Thompson.
WEAU contacted United Airlines and a spokesperson wrote back with this statement: “Customers who have travel-related questions or concerns may contact us through our customer-service channels, including united.com, reservations and our social media platforms. We are asking Twitter to require the account’s owner to further clarify that the account is a parody to eliminate confusion for customers who need assistance from United.”
Thompson said he does have the word ‘parody’ written out at the top of his account profile but some tweeters still seem to miss the obvious and continue to tweet away complaints.
When asked about the future of @unitedairlanes, Thompson said he doesn’t see the account coming to an end anytime soon.
“At least, until I completely run out of jokes to make about airlines,” he said.
See link below to follow @unitedairlanes