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United, JetBlue Offer Twitter Deals
By Ed Perkins on Travel
Airfares via Twitter
Airfares by Twitter - the latest gimmick.
As if you didn't already have enough different places to look for airfare deals, United and Jet Blue have added yet another base to touch. And their new Twitter products - United's "Tware" and JetBlue's "Cheeps" airfares - offer another way to find good deals.
Twares, says United, are typically the lowest published fares the line offers.
United's initial offering was a Tweet-only round-trip fare of $118 (including tax) from Chicago to Philadelphia, which was about half the going rate. JetBlue's initial offering was early access to a limited inventory of round-trip New York - Nantucket seats for $9. In both cases, the Twitter purchase window was open only a few hours.
If you originally thought of twittering - as I did - as a mindless time-waster for teenagers and others with not enough to do, you may have to re-think your view.
I found that most big U.S. airlines and many international lines post promotions, news, and information through Twitter. And press reports indicate that travelers can sometimes pick up important "heads up" information from other travelers about traffic conditions to / from an airport, delays, and such. As far as I can tell, however, United is the first line to offer Twitter-only fares that don't show anywhere else, even on the line's regular website. To get them you have to have Twitter.
If you're new to Twittering, you log on at www.twitter.com, register, then list people or companies you wish to "follow" plus a bunch of other stuff about how you want to use the system. You have several ways to arrange for immediate notification of anything from a site you're following, such as signing up for text messaging through a wireless phone, provided it's properly equipped. Otherwise, you can check the site periodically. I didn't sign up until I started researching this story, so I have a lot to learn about the process - especially if keeping up is cumbersome. But if you're curious, give it a try.
United added another gimmick: Twares travel does not earn frequent flyer mileage. This is no surprise - lots of foreign lines give no miles or greatly reduced miles on their lowest fares - but it's a first among U.S. lines. It's easy to understand why United did this.
Initially, the big U.S. lines thought of their programs as a way to hold onto their core frequent travelers - typically "road warriors" who travel often and pay high business fares. I expect they figured that occasional leisure travelers, who generally buy the cheapest available tickets, would exhibit no significant brand loyalty and that, in any case, most leisure travelers would not accumulate enough credit for any meaningful amount of "free" award travel.
But a funny thing happened to frequent flyer programs: They morphed from being "loyalty programs" into "cash cows."
These days, airlines probably issue as many miles through affiliated credit cards and other "partners" as they issue to people who actually fly. As a result, many of you accumulate large credit accounts with very little flying or none at all. And the airlines are happy to keep selling those no-fly miles to banks and other partners for somewhere between one and two cents a mile: Selling miles generates more profit than selling cheap tickets. But airlines see no gain in "giving" miles away if they don't find it competitively necessary. Hence the decision not to award miles for Tware flying.
As I noted, several foreign lines - who entered the frequent flyer game well after the big U.S. lines - decided from the get-go to award only reduced credit or no credit for cheap-ticket flights. Lots of you have found that out the hard way when you got no miles for long-haul flights on one of your U.S. line's partner lines.
Obviously, other lines will keep close tabs on Twares and Cheeps - and they'll copy if those two programs appear successful. And either way, I wouldn't be surprised that, in a few years, the big U.S. lines will stop giving full miles on all their bottom-fare tickets, not just Twitter deals.
© Ed Perkins DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
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Travel | United, JetBlue Offer Twitter Deals