Smart Travel Tips: Five Ways Social Media is Helping Airlines and Passengers Stay Connected this Summer

As the summer travel season kicks into high gear, the world’s largest airlines are using the power of social media to keep millions of travelers informed and in touch as they plan their summer getaways.

U.S. airlines will carry 206.2 million passengers from June through August, up by 3 million from the same period in 2010. This is great news for the industry, but can mean added challenges for travelers.

For airlines including airBaltic, easyJet, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Icelandair, Southwest Airlines, United and US Airways, customer loyalty and brand engagement are a top priority.

With more than 4 million combined followers on Twitter alone, these carriers have turned to global interactive marketing provider ExactTarget‘s CoTweet enterprise social media management platform to manage high volumes of customer interactions for flight delays, rebooking, seat assignments, frequent flier programs, luggage handling and more.

Here are five ways social media is helping airline customers make the most of their summer travel plans:

  • Fare Deals – This summer, everyone is looking for hot deals. @SouthwestAir recently celebrated their 40th anniversary by having a 72-hour fare sale and alerting fans and followers through social media channels. JetBlue found so much success through pushing fare deals through social channels they started a separate Twitter account @JetBlueCheeps to offer weekly and pop-up last minute deals to their customers.
  • Reservations, Rebooking – Need to make a change to your travel plans? Often social media can produce quicker results than customer service lines. @airBaltic regularly connects with travelers to provide flight and schedule tips.
  • Weather Alerts – When a storm blew through Chicago, @UnitedAirlines alerted their more than 200,000 followers of potential delays through Twitter and Facebook. Travelers can keep an eye on their feeds to get the latest on weather delays.
  • Rewards Programs – Do you do lots of traveling? Airlines like @USAirways provide program updates, partner deals and last-minute rewards opportunities through social media.
  • Baggage Handling – Having trouble finding your bag? Reach out to customer support through Facebook or Twitter and often you can get a quick resolution.

“Tech savvy travelers are increasingly using social media to provide real-time feedback to carriers and share their experiences with others. You need to stay sharp if you want to keep up and stay engaged,” said Morgan Johnston, JetBlue Airways. “CoTweet has helped us transition from a single listening post to a 24/7 monitoring hub with the ability to leverage multiple areas of expertise within our organization to provide a seamless flow of information between our operations, and our customers.”

Many airlines have also turned to CoTweet to engage with customers during travel disruptions or crises, such as the 2010 Icelandic volcanic eruption that resulted in the unprecedented closure of some of the world’s busiest airports.

“Over the last few years we’ve seen a significant uptick in conversations about air travel across social media, which has opened the door for airlines to say, ‘We’re here, we’re listening, and we care!’” said Jesse Engle, vice president of social media at ExactTarget. “These brands face some of the most challenging customer service situations around. By giving them the tools to capture, respond to, and even anticipate their travelers’ needs, we are helping the world’s biggest airlines drive greater customer loyalty and satisfaction ratings in a highly competitive market.”

ExactTarget’s Twitter X-Factors research report found that people active on Twitter are three times more likely to impact a brand’s online reputation through syndicated Tweets, blog posts, articles and product reviews than the average consumer. Twitter X-Factors was the fourth research brief in ExactTarget’s and CoTweet’s ongoing Subscribers, Fans & Followers research series.