App It, Tweet It, Book It


O.K., a show of hands: Who has downloaded airline carriers’ apps to their mobile device?

Why not?

The apps enable us to make reservations, check in for flights, access mobile boarding passes, check flight status, find connecting gates, track baggage, view frequent flier accounts, and so on.

Some of us also follow airlines on Twitter and reach out to them in the heat of composition using Twitter’s 140-character logic. (And I do mean logic. No writing can be all bad as long as it’s short.)

Well, thanks for reading. So long. (Ha- ha.)

Airlines are evolving in their use of Twitter, moving way beyond simply updating flight status and now tweeting low fares at electronic speed.

Twitter has become a way to “fast track” our complaints (with multiple exclamation points), avoiding long lines and glacial wait times on 800 numbers. Imagine a world lacking intense eye contact with gate agents who couldn’t give two chomps of gum for your problems.

More than 200 airlines are on Twitter and millions follow them. But “just 24 of the airlines generate the majority – 80 percent – of the content.”

American Airlines is reportedly at the top of the class with an average of less than 15 minutes responding to tweets, often with maximally considerate writing.

Airlines want to jump on problems early and adjust the idle of their online reputations, knowing that trouble comes cheap and leaves expensive.

But let’s get back to apps.

Consider Southwest Airlines, where boarding priority is based in part on when you check in (starting 24 hours before flight time). Using their app on your mobile device to check in assures you a spot in line. (Yes, you can do this on your computer without a shortcut app, but that’s like writing with a typewriter.)

Many airline apps let you view and change your seat assignments, monitor standby status and save a digital boarding pass on your phone. You also have airport maps at your fingertips.

And some airlines, like Delta, allow you to track your luggage like a Fed Ex package.

Free non-airline apps like GoHow Airport also exist. Input your flight details and you are linked to computers of more than 50 domestic airports and 30 foreign airports. The app automatically updates delays and advises you of arrival and departure gates.

GoHow Airport also displays airport maps and lists restaurants, shops and other services near your gate.

Airports, too, are launching their own apps. Frankfurt FRA gives you terminal maps and flight updates; Amsterdam’s Schiphol AMS offers a guide to their myriad shopping options.

Trendsetters suggest instantaneous information at our fingertips is the new next norm; the way self check-in is now the rule rather than the exception.

They believe mobile bookings will increase and Twitter feeds with special-fare hashtags may prompt spontaneous travel.

The bottom line seems to be that we’ll have more control and information about our journeys.

More information is good, as long as it’s short.


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