For last second fares, watch for United’s Twares

As the social media monstrosity known as Twitter continues to grow by the nanosecond (did you know that the Whole Foods in Evanston, IL is now on Twitter?), more and more companies in the travel industry are now taking advantage of their followers to lure in new sales.

Sure it’s just another marketing technique, but where travel consumers and producers can really benefit is in the wholesaling of last minute capacity.

In United Airline’s case, the product is called a Tware. We first covered these Twitter Fares around this time last year, and since its inception the concept has really taken off.

In a nutshell, here’s how Tware’s work: Airline capacity managers identify a group of routes that are significantly undersold over a period of time, say, all flights from the US to Australia over the course of June. Knowing that there’s a low probability of all of those seats being sold at the current market prices, the capacity managers block off a bucket full of seats on select flights, heavily discount the fares and call the folks at the Twitter desk.

At the count of three, cheap seats open up and an advertisement goes on Twitter announcing that “A Tware to Australia!” has started. 70,000 highly focused, highly motivated followers suddenly tune in, everyone starts booking and the seats sell like hotcakes.

In the end, United makes some cash, when they formerly would have been flying empty seats and a few passengers get a great deal on tickets. Oh, and United gets a ton of free PR.

The only catch? Since the airline is clearing out empty seats most Twares are for travel within the next month or two. But if you’re flexible, adventurous and have a few extra dollars the formula is perfect for a quick jaunt to paradise.

You can follow @unitedairlines to tune into upcoming Twares. Be forewarned that most Twares only last a few hours, so have your credit card and calendar ready!

[Image credit, Pylon757]

JetBlue, United jump on Twitter for cheap tix

JetBlue and United Airlines are pushing the first taste of cheap fares out on Twitter. They hope to use what USA Today calls the “uber-trendy form of messaging” to push seats on flights that may have vacant seats prior to wheels-up. After deals appear, they don’t always stick around long. JetBlue’s first “Cheep” (a variation on “tweet”) offered a $9 one-way fare from JFK to Nantucket. The model that’s emerging puts JetBlue’s fare tweets out on Monday mornings and offers around eight hours to act on them.

United Airlines has had its “twares” in action since May, and the element of surprise is a factor. The discounts can be released without warning, and there’s no discernable schedule. The deals can live for as little as two hours, forcing Twitter-using travelers to act fast.

Twitter + Fares = Twares

Twares may not be a word in the dictionary now, but it might be a common word in travel vocabulary soon.

Twares is a noun, and it means you can get special, time-sensitive fare offers from United Airlines if you follow the airlines on Twitter.

A tweet was sent from @UnitedAirlines at around 11:10 a.m. ET on Wednesday to promote a special $63 each-way “Tware” between Washington Reagan National and Chicago O’Hare. The first tware has expired, but United is holding a 10K Twitter follower challenge (it’s at just over 5,000 followers right now). When it reaches that number, another tware might pop up.

It’s time to stop stalling and join Twitter!

You can find Gadling on Twitter, as well as most of the Gadling Team: Mike Barish, Kraig Becker, Catherine Bodry, Alison Brick, Justin Glow, Aaron Hotfelder, Tom Johansmeyer, Jeremy Kressmann, Heather Poole, Jamie Rhein, Annie Scott, Karen Walrond, Kent Wien, and Brenda Yun.