Any doubts as to the usefulness of social-media were set straight following the past week’s travel turmoil and the solutions offered by resourceful tweeters and Facebook users.
On Twitter, #ashtag kept the Twitter community up to date with the latest developments and potential alternative routes home, while tags like #getmehome and #roadsharing helped link like-minded people looking for a spare seat in a car, boat or train.
For those resigned to the fact that even other modes of transport looked a forlorn hope, Twitter tags like #stranded, #putmeup and #ashaccomodation have been helping those stuck overseas find somewhere to stay while in some cases also helping hoteliers or guesthouse owners fill space not taken up by guests stranded elsewhere.
On Facebook, the community spirit has been just as strong. Facebook group Carpool Europe was set up by the Swedish carpool movement with the slogan “in wait for the ash to settle, share a ride with other Europeans” and is full of wall posters looking for a ride home across the Continent. Elsewhere there are groups with smaller memberships all with the message “get me out of here”.
It was another Swede who set up the website Volcanohelp.eu as a hub for news, tweets and also hosting a forum for those looking for or offering a temporary home. Other stranded travellers are reporting how their internet-enabled mobiles really came into their own in accessing vital information when stuck in a strange land.
With airspace re-opened, businesses are finding even more ways of offering additional customer service via new media. The official Twitter channel for O2 in the UK @o2 was reporting earlier today that they were “texting all O2 customers stuck abroad to tell them how to call most airlines for free”, and letting others know about it by using #ashtag and #getmehome tags in their tweets.
So while we may not have had the usual visible air-traffic in the UK skies in recent days, the virtual skies have been busier than ever. With the “Dunkirk-spirit” being cited by media outlets in recent days we may well be recalling in years to come that when the ash came, new media stepped up to the plate and excelled.