Travel Blogs Keep Watch on Airlines

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 15, 2008 | Go to article overview

Travel Blogs Keep Watch on Airlines


Byline: Nicholas Kralev, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Public relations departments of airlines can't catch a break. Not only is their industry under constant scrutiny by the public and the traditional media, now they have bloggers to worry about.

Let's face it - the news hasn't been great lately. How do you spin reducing services while adding fees? Or keeping fuel charges intact when oil prices are three times lower than they were when those charges were imposed?

Part of a journalist's job is to unspin what businesses - or the government, for that matter - tell the public, but another part is to do so fairly and to present different sides to every story.

Bloggers, however, have no such obligation. They are free to rant about any grudge they may hold against a company without worrying about bias, and they have become a part of the media that many airlines keep an eye on and even try to influence.

Blogs are part of our daily work and we monitor them. There are some really good ones and some not that interesting but still a good source, said Martin Riecken, head of corporate communications for the Americas at Germany's Lufthansa. We treat them as media outlets. They are on our distribution list and they get invited to events.

Blogs are typically opinionated, but the best of them are as good at defending their views with facts and strong arguments as they are at presenting them. The best travel bloggers are usually people with some experience in the industry or with considerable knowledge about it.

Blog posts are often unedited rants that have more immediacy than a well-edited reporter's piece, said Brett Snyder, who writes the blog Cranky Flier. That being said, good bloggers are trying to get at the same thing as good reporters - the truth.

Gary Leff, whose blog is View From the Wing, said the best way to get him to write about something is to understand his interests. But also be ready for questions. A PR flak who doesn't know his product isn't likely to get very far - or might get made fun of, he said. Sending me an e-mail about a new credit card is going to be a good thing to do if the credit card is meaningfully better in some way than other existing cards.

Mr. Leff said that his blog has about 40,000 unique visitors a month, and Mr. Snyder about 30,000.

It's not entirely clear how much influence bloggers have, but I like to think we certainly play a role in shaping public opinion, and that can often result in increased pressure on airlines to change their behavior, Mr. …

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