10:57 AM

Frequent fliers air beefs in chatrooms - and airlines are paying attention

By Amy Levine-Koman

Airlines take away our leg room and our peanuts, but they are keeping an eye on complaints passengers reel off in chat rooms, reports the Washington Post.

All across the Internet, passengers are sharing horror stories and traveling tips. Flyertalk, one of the more popular sites for frequent fliers, has more than 130,000 members - and the airlines' attention.

American Airlines' customer service managers and spokesmen visit the sites because they "give you a quick pulse check on the industry," said Roger Frizzell, vice president of corporate communications.

Inspired by the idea of the chat room, United Airlines even launched its own version of the chat room in April and invited 200 of its highest-mileage fliers to join the private discussions, the carrier said.

Continental Airlines has even gone so far as to sponsor two events in recent years for Flyertalk members (known as Flyertalkers) at its headquarters in Houston, drawing more than 200 people who paid their own way to have their say. The Flyertalkers even convinced Continental chief executive Lawrence W. Kellner to get his company more involved in the chat room.

Since being assigned to monitor Flyertalk, www.airliners.net and blogs on various Web sites, O'Leary has solved dozens of problems that irritate flyers. He has posted more than 500 comments in the past year alone on Flyertalk.

"Every airline executive in his right mind is reading Flyertalk and other sites. If it is bothering these customers, it is probably bothering others who don't post on the sites," says Scott O'Leary, a customer service guru at Continental who monitors Flyertalk.