“We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused”: Pragmatic aspects of handling complaints in customer-airline company tweets


In the relationship between customers and companies, the Web has radically changed the communicative context in which they daily interact, as computer-based technology includes many possibilities to express opinions and to exchange information freely. Therefore, customers have become familiar with leaving feedback through dedicated reviews sites, especially through social media, generating a powerful word of mouth. While complaints are now exposed to a wider audience because thousands of other potential customers can read all the interactions, airline companies have more opportunities to listen to travellers and engage with them. The digital revolution has thus had a profound influence on complaint management, which is becoming a priority in order to win back the complaint and shape the reputation of the company. The present paper offers a discourse-pragmatic analysis of complaints negotiation tweets written by native/non-native travellers and four European airlines companies (British Airways, Lufthansa, Ryanair and EasyJet) in summer 2021. The analysis aims at examining the use of directness/indirectness, politeness strategies and upgraders/downgraders in customer-airline company online interactions. Preliminary findings demonstrate that, depending on the different discursive strategies adopted by customers (from neutral to more confrontational formulations), airline companies apologies tend to mitigate conflicts showing empathy and promoting a traveller-oriented approach.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v53p101

Keywords: corpus linguistics; complaints; tweets; airlines online communication; apology strategies


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