11/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Social Media Can Lead to Travel Deals and Discounts

I don't really care what Ashton Kutcher had for lunch, but when it comes to bargains, hold me back. Despite my misgivings that I'd be mired in the minutiae of other people's lives, I've turned to social media -- Facebook and Twitter -- to help me find great deals ahead of the pack.

"If we offer a 24-hour sale, these individuals get the first announcement," says Chris Vary, an American Airlines spokesman.

And, in what may be a boon to the customer experience, airlines are using social media to address customer concerns and answer questions.

"Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter allow travel companies to talk directly to customers, and for us to talk back." says Christopher Elliott, ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine.

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Other Social Media

Beyond Twitter and Facebook, airlines are connecting and entertaining passengers on Flickr and YouTube.

While Flickr primarily lets aviation buffs and airlines swap photos, YouTube videos run the gamut from flight announcements to commercials and complaints.

A passenger on Southwest Airlines posted video of David Holmes rapping the flight safety information: (over 2,237,000 views).

Passengers are also using YouTube to improve customer service. The Sons of Maxwell's song about United breaking Dave Carroll's Taylor guitar on a flight to Nebraska got United's attention and raised the band's profile:

Another User posted a flight announcement video onboard the fictional Cheapo airlines (satirizing the never ending fees passengers seem to face on many flights these days: :

Roger Poulton, Air New Zealand's Vice President said the airline posted its "Bare Essentials" flight safety announcement (shown only on domestic flights) on YouTube to increase awareness of Air New Zealand. With almost 4.7 million views, awareness seems to be raised. In "Bare Essentials," naked actors wearing only body paint deliver the safety announcement. You can see it -- safely --- at I've watched it several times and the paint looks like clothing. If there's a Janet Jackson peekaboo moment, I can't detect it. (For outtakes, head to Air New Zealand's website:

In May, the carrier launched its own social networking site to promote its Oct. 13 Matchmaking Flight from Los Angeles to Auckland (

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