Booking flights using an iPhone, BlackBerry or Android smartphone is still a fairly fiddly process. Nobody has yet made a smartphone flight search and booking app that we've found good enough to use on a regular basis -- and we've reviewed a lot of apps.
But just about every smartphone has a Twitter client, and those that don't can use Twitter via the mobile web or SMS.
Flight search website Adioso has put together an excellent implementation of natural language flight searches using Twitter. Even better, it's localised for the Australian market, so searches come back in Australian dollars.
The flight search service, @AskAdioso, is a clever language interpretation service rather than a traditional flight booking site. So there's no fiddling around with irritating tiny popup calendars or selecting from long lists.
Just tweet your question to @AskAdioso in plain English. For example:
@AskAdioso Sydney to Melbourne on May 25.
Adioso will tweet you back with a lowest price quote and a link to book. Here's the answer to our query:
(The slang it uses can be a little eye-rollingly irritating, though. "Yo, you can totes get to Melbourne on May 25" is one of the stock phrases.)
The bit.ly link talkes you to a page with the flight details and further options. Here's what it looks like:
Adioso then sends you off to the airline's page to book.
You can also use airport codes ("SYD to MEL") and even search by country ("SYD to Malaysia"), and search by a month rather than a specific date ("SYD to MEL in May"). Check out the full list of options at Adioso's site.
Here's the downside: Adioso's a fairly young service, so it doesn't cover all airlines yet. Most Australian airlines are covered, including Qantas (domestic only), Jetstar, Virgin Blue (including Pacific Blue), and V Australia.
A key omission for Australian business travellers heading across the Tasman is Air New Zealand.
Worldwide, Adioso will search on AirAsia, AirBerlin, AirTran, Easyjet, Germanwings, JetBlue, Jetstar, NokAir, Qantas Domestic, Tiger Airways, V Australia, Virgin America, and Virgin Blue. There's a clear low-cost carrier focus, but some of those low-cost carriers offer business class and good service, like V Australia and Virgin America.
While you're trying AskAdioso out, don't forget that Australian Business Traveller is on Twitter too, at @AusBT. Follow us for the latest news, information and tips, and tweet us with your questions.