Air Transport World

Social distribution: sites like Facebook and Twitter have become important communications channels. Can they also sell tickets?(Distribution)

A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO, BILLY SANEZ, AMERICAN AIRLINES' social media director, and a couple of his team members went to a designated street corner in New York City and put on their AA t-shirts. They immediately drew a crowd. The employees began handing out tickets to a private concert by John Legend and the Roots, a popular R&B and hip-hop group, to those who had the password. Those in the know were the carrier's Facebook fans. They learned about the event from AA's postings on its Facebook page, which then were broadcast through its fans' Facebook "news feeds." American believes that this kind of bonding is "creating a great group of customers," Sanez says.


Social media vehicles, particularly Twitter and Facebook, have proved to be valuable for airlines and other companies in times of crisis--storms, system cutovers, aircraft incidents and the like. Twitter has served as a "breaking news" medium in situations like Capt. Chesley Sullenberger's Miracle on the Hudson.

But is this a new distribution channel? AA created its Travel Bag application for Facebook in March 2008 as a means for its fans to share information. The following year it added a Fare Finder feature that enables users to search fares for up to three routes on selected dates. If they like what they see, they can click on a link to A few months ago, Delta launched the Delta Ticket Window application that allows users to book a flight without leaving the Facebook site. It plans to use the Ticket Window on other sites as well.

Henry Harteveldt, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, says social media in and of itself is not likely to become a distribution channel. …

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