Which travel firms do Twitter well (and badly)?
Mark Hodson discovers which companies are using Twitter in a useful way – and those you needn’t bother with getting hold of easyJet’s customer services team has always been a bit of a challenge. Firstly, it’s notoriously difficult to find the phone number on the company’s website. Then, when you do eventually track down the number, you are charged up to £1 a minute to speak to a real human being.
But now there’s an easier way. You can log onto easyJet on Twitter, the micro-blogging website, and chat with a friendly member of easyJet’s customer relations team called Paul Hopkins. Paul answers questions from passengers, chases down complaints and even gives out his personal email address.
EasyJet is one of the latest travel companies to appear on Twitter, using the site to deal with complaints, get feedback from customers and generally present itself as a friendly caring airline. Last time we looked, Paul had posted 474 updates and collected 189 followers.
Times Online asked me to look into which travel companies are using Twitter well and those that are not worth a second look. You can follow the team’s tweeting at http://www.twitter.com/timestravel.
In recent weeks, dozens of airlines, airports, tour operators and tourist boards have flocked onto Twitter. Not all are using it effectively. Here’s our pick of the winners – and the losers
– Mark Hodson, writer for The Sunday Times and co-editor of 101holidays.co.uk
TRAVEL COMPANIES TO FOLLOW
Lonely Planet has come up with a smart and novel use of Twitter: it promises to forward your travel-related Tweets to its 2,561 followers providing it finds them interesting – and you include the hashtag, #lp. The result is an impressive stream of useful information, inspiring links and travel trivia.
The boutique hotel specialist, Mr & Mrs Smith, offers ideas of where to stay in the UK and abroad. Its Twitter team enthusiastically responds to individual queries, whether you’re looking for hotels in Brighton or Bangkok. Followers: 1,110.
Brittany Ferries promotes last-minute deals and seasonal offers, plus offers to deal with individual enquiries and complaints. Followers: 107.
The trendy upmarket tour operator, Black Tomato, has a typically chatty approach, inviting its 320 followers to attend photography evenings and chat to the company’s founders in webcasts. Its clear aim is to drive visitors to its website, but it doesn’t feel like a heavy sell.
Visit Britain provides a stream of ideas and links – new attractions, price discounts, local events and even a few jokes. The Twitter team will also answer individual queries. Handy if you’ve got a free weekend and looking for inspiration. Followers: 1,620.
Lastminute.com offers a lively mix of deals, news and chat, plus it deals with customer complaints – cheaper than calling the 0871 number on its website. Followers: 2,168.
Thomson Holidays recently used Twitter to keep its passengers updated on the fallout of the Swine Flu panic. It has also started to use Twitter to deal with customer complaints. Followers: 122.
OTHER INTERESTING TRAVEL TWEETERS
Travel Rants is a one-man crusade to highlight the worst aspects of travel and take those responsible to task. Its founder, Darren Cronian, responds to individual questions and Tweets a constant stream of personal comments. Followers: 2,512.
Murray Harrold gives an insight into the working life of a travel agent, whether he is highlighting quirks in airline pricing or moaning at customers’ requests for exit seats. Followers: 96.
Heather Poole is a flight attendant – “Yeah, that’s me, the one wearing flammable polyester?” She provides a colourful glimpse into life at 35,000ft, with jokes, gossip and even the occasional restaurant recommendation. Followers: 1,304.