Follow airlines on Twitter for last-minute air fare deals

Twitter for last-minute airline dealsJet from New York to Portland, Maine for $10 one way. Fly from Los Angeles to Sydney for $712 round trip. Or travel within Europe for as little as $61 each way. More airlines are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon, hoping to snag customers by offering last-minute deals to destinations around the world. While short-term sales on Twitter offering tickets for travel several days later were rare last summer, this year there are all sorts of offers to choose from.

And even as airfares overall keep climbing, Twitter sales provide great deals if you're willing to be flexible.

For example, today JetBlue Airways Tweeted several offers @JetBlueCheeps, including a $39 one-way deal between Las Vegas and Burbank, Calif. Social media savvy JetBlue is the most predictable Twitterer among airlines, Tweeting deals every Tuesday morning for travel that weekend.

Like other airlines' Twitter deals, sale destinations on JetBlue vary based on the seats that haven't been sold on various flights for that particular week -- what's known in airline industry parlance as "distressed inventory."

But unlike JetBlue's deals, other airlines' sales on Twitter aren't so predictable. And if you're following lots of folks, you just might miss them -- unless you subscribe to various services, such as Farecompare.com, or Wanderlisting.com, or twitter.com/airfarewatchdog -- that aggregate these deals.

"With some of the other airlines, it's a luck game," said Anne Banas, executive editor at smartertravel.com. "They pretty much throw them up there and you can't predict what you're going to get."

There are quite a few caveats for last-minute airfare deals on Twitter. To wit, various flights offered on JetBlue on Tuesdays typically only have 20 seats available per plane for flights the following weekend and are often sold out within hours.

And there's lots of competition for these seats. JetBlue alone has 60,422 followers on Twitter. Southwest has a little more than one million and American Airlines 81,205.

In addition, the advertised prices are only for one-way travel and do not include various fees.

Subscribing to airlines' Twitter feeds is also a great way to find out about holiday sales, such as those for the upcoming Labor Day weekend. Travelers looking for last-minute air fare deals with longer travel windows can also subscribe to a weekly e-mail newsletter compiled by smartertravel.com that catalogs steals for airports in their area.

But beware, some airlines, like Southwest, use Twitter as another way to advertise all sorts of services, which can junk up your feed with information you don't really need. Southwest recently offered its followers a "Chance to Win a Cinderella Castle Stay Getaway" and suggested folks in Denver should "Be on the lookout for Southwest pedicabs providing FREE RIDES tonight before the game @ Coors Field."

Other airlines, meanwhile, deal with customer service issues on their Twitter accounts, making finding last-minute air fare deals a frustrating experience. The world's biggest airline, Delta, however, recently announced a new Twitter feed, @DeltaAssist, dedicated to customer service issues.

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