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Travel talk: Online and dangerous

By Nick Easen


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(CNN) -- There's no doubt about it: If you want to moan about a ruined business trip or sing out praise for an exquisite hotel there is no better place than the Internet.

Think of what the World Wide Web did to travel agencies, well it's also revolutionizing how we talk about travel -- web whispers no longer -- online communities are now in full throttle.

From Fodor's Rants and Raves (www.fodors.com/rants) to the U.S. Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (www.naafa.org), which tries to eliminate injustice against obese air travelers -- there could be a community out there for you.

"The need is just beginning to be met in such a niche like business travel, you have a look at personal community sites like www.livejournal.com. The demand is incredible," Daniel Baker who runs online travel community www.ITYT.com told CNN.

"People constantly strive to find people that they relate to. The Internet has allowed people to expand the opportunity to meet [others] with similar interests. These communities have to be developed and built to bridge the final gap," he reiterates.

Many of those who travel for business are using online communities to stay abreast of the latest airline news, policies and procedures.

Since "[airlines] are constantly changing the rules and even the most travel savvy folks have to work hard to keep up," says Baker.

No talk of pain, then no gain

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Yet the most popular online focus is the disgruntled anecdotes of travelers who want to voice their frustration and pain on the Worldwide Web and not feel alone.

For instance loyal customers of Continental (www.denycontinentalthefreddie.com) or United Airlines (www.untied.com) can now type out their concerns, and so can those passengers of Easyjet (www.easyjet-sucks.org).

According to one site www.alitaliasucks.com, the airline in question tried to take the unhappy customer who started the domain to court -- but to no avail.

And if you travel by train there is www.onthetrains.com, according to the site it is the world's first online community for rail passengers.

Or you may like to voice your distress or delights with the London Tube or UK train network, if so go to www.trainpain.com.

If travel companies are unhappy about the bad online press they are getting from disgruntled consumers they can always try another approach.

By acquiring web site names and domains that encompass the words that spell out consumer dissatisfaction, you minimize your exposure to bad online press.

For instance www.easyjetsucks.com actually redirects browsers to the official Easyjet web site, rather than an online community that has the potential to wreak havoc on public opinion.

A real community reflected online

After two years Baker, who still runs his "I Travel, You Travel" web site as a hobby, has 1500 members and tens of thousand of visitors.

And he has now learned that it takes a real-life community to start an online one -- in this case, those frequent and enthusiastic travelers all over the world who want to talk about being on the move.

"There didn't previously exist a full scale community for travel that not only had discussion forums, but also information libraries, picture galleries, and full media exchange," he told CNN.

In the U.S., some business executives logon to community travel web sites to get tips to assist them with their travel schemes and budgets.

"Consumer loyalty is important and business travelers have to work hard to make airline loyalty [work] for both them and their employer," observes Baker.

"You might be amazed at the number of people who would be willing to buy two round trip tickets: Houston-Atlanta and Atlanta-Newark, for example, to do a quasi-legal connection in Atlanta on the way to New York as opposed to flying nonstop on a carrier that they don't have a loyal relationship with," he reiterates.

Now another online travel community actually ventures into the physical world and helps you find other travelers who may be on the same flight or in the same airport -- that way you don't have to be on your own before take off.

"Spice up your flight life, make new friends," claims the web site www.flight-club.org.


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