US Airways has apologised after a graphic sexual image was tweeted from its official Twitter account in response to a disgruntled customer.
The company has been known to respond rapidly and gracefully to complaints on social media, particularly about delayed flights or lost baggage.
However this time was different as the company triggered shock, howls of protest and a deluge of crude jokes on the Internet when they responded to a Twitter user by attaching an extremely not-safe-for-work photograph of a model of a Boeing 777 jet plane in a woman's vagina.
The Twitter user, @ellerafter, had complained that her flight sat for an hour on the tarmac, prompting an apology from the airline's Twitter feed, @USAirways.
After a second complaint by the customer, the company responded again, saying "We welcome feedback, Elle. If your travel is complete, you can detail it here for review and follow-up," the company wrote.
But inexplicably the graphic and uncensored image was attached to the tweet.
The airline quickly apologised on Twitter, then offered an explanation after its investigation.
We apologize for an inappropriate image recently shared as a link in one of our responses. We’ve removed the tweet and are investigating.— US Airways (@USAirways) April 14, 2014
"We captured the tweet to flag it as inappropriate. Unfortunately the image was inadvertently included in a response to a customer," US Airways said, without clearly explaining the technical steps taken.
"We immediately realized the error and removed our tweet," communications coordinator Valerie Hooks said in a statement, adding the company would study how to avoid such errors in the future.
The offending image had been sent by another Twitter user earlier in the day, to American Airlines, which is undergoing a merger with US Airways.