One evening last summer, 450 people snagged round-trip airline tickets to Europe for a mere $250, including taxes. The spectacularly low fares were available for only a few hours; by the next morning, Delta had discovered its pricing glitch and hiked the fare again. How did those people learn about the deal in time?
By following Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com, on Twitter. Other lucky travelers last summer were able to nab $9 JetBlue tickets from JFK to Nantucket and $444 round–trips on United from the West Coast to Australia. How? By watching JetBlue and United onTwitter: Those airlines are giving their followers first dibs on some of their steepest sales.
You may know Twitter only as the butt of late-night comedians' jokes, and if you haven't spent much time on Twitter, it's easy to dismiss it as a silly social-networking fad for narcissists telling one another what they ate for lunch.
But I've been on Twitter for more than a year now, and I'm here to tell you that the perks you can glean from it are no joke. Ignore it and you'll miss out on significant travel benefits, including deals you can't find elsewhere.
The trick to Twitter is figuring out who to follow—meaning, whose Twitter updates ("tweets") to receive. Follow the right people and you've got an instant personalized travel news feed on your mobile phone or computer.
You'll be among the first to hear about airfare sales, get access to steep Twitter-only discounts on hotel rooms or last-minute island-vacation packages, hear timely advice from travel experts, maybe even win a free hotel night, a day pass to an airline lounge club, or bonus frequent&-flier miles. Morever, if you've got a complaint about a travel company that has a presence on Twitter, you can lodge it via a tweet. If the company doesn't resolve the issue, the viral nature of Twitter means that thousands of others can know about your gripe within minutes.
Although you'll find a gazillion travel entities on Twitter—from tourist boards (e.g., @VisitBritain) to airline lounge clubs (e.g., @AdmiralsClub) to hotel company CEOs (e.g., @SimonFCooper of Ritz–Carlton)—you'd have no reason to follow most of them unless you're headed to a specific destination.
Some, however, are worth following regularly for the information, assistance, or perks that they offer and which you can't easily find elsewhere. These people and companies use Twitter to answer travelers' questions, to sell distressed inventory, and/or to resolve complaints. To help you find the right Twitterers to follow, here's a short list of a few of my favorites.
For a longer list, go to my blog at perrinpost.com, scroll down the left rail to "Topics Covered," and click on the category marked "Twitter." You can find me on Twitter (@PerrinPost), and you can get a great lesson on how to use Twitter by doing a Google search for "The Twitter Tutorial."