Trouble Booking Post-Sandy Air Travel? Try Using Twitter

The other day, a friend spent 40 minutes on the phone trying to rebook a trip from Orange County to New York City, only to have his request denied. But when we tried reaching out to the airline on Twitter, it took only 10 minutes for a response. After a few 140-character direct messages back and forth, we successfully switched flights within the hour.

Twitter can be a fast, easy and efficient way to get airline customer service, particularly in the aftermath of disasters like Superstorm Sandy. But not all Tweets are created equal. Here are a few factors that can help your message get noticed.

Using hashtags

Hashtags allow Twitter users to participate in larger conversations on topics and events. For example, a search on the hashtag #Sandy will bring up all Tweets related to the storm. Other useful hashtags include: #frankenstorm, #travel, #airlines, cities like #nyc or #boston and airport codes like #jfk and #ewr. If you include a hashtag in your Tweet, chances are your message will surface beyond your immediate network – which can be harmful to airlines if the sentiment is negative.Mentioning other airlines

It sometimes helps to stir up a little healthy competition. In this particular situation, we mentioned American Airlines in our Tweet to JetBlue, stating that American’s change policy included flights on October 28, while JetBlue’s policy started on October 29. We concluded:

@jetblue first time I’ve ever wished I flew @americanair instead. No way to change flights w/ fee waiver for a 10/29 redeye? #frankenstorm

Within a few minutes, we received a response from JetBlue asking us to send the confirmation code by direct message so they could see if we qualified for a change fee waiver, which we did. To boot, American Airlines sent us a cheeky Tweet asking why we had “cheated on them” and wishing us well.

Your follower count

The higher your follower count, the wider the network your angry Twitter messages will reach. As a result, Twitter users with more followers may well have their messages bumped to the top of the customer service queue. The same goes for users with high scores on Klout, an engine that attempts to measure a person’s social media influence. Airlines already use Klout to issue perks like airport lounge stays and even free flights; it’s not out of the question that they use Klout scores in their social media customer service platforms too.

Perfecting your message

Set aside the impulse to be rude and aggressive, and feel free to shelve the emoticons while you’re at it. Twitter’s 140-character message limit forces you to pare down your request to the bare essentials, and it helps to be direct and concise about your needs. Try to avoid messages like this:

@airline i am so bummmmmmed that i can’t change my flight!!! ur customer service sux. :(

Instead try something like this:

@airline trying to change #LAX-#JFK fl 204 fr 10/31 to 11/3 bec #sandy. phone agent says no flights on 11/3 but i see flights online. help?

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Shawn Campbell]