February 13, 2014, 2:55 PM

An airline lets travelers pay for flights via social media

KLM says it has 130 social media-focused customer service agents to help consumers book flights, reserve seats and arrange for extra baggage. The company, also known as Royal Dutch Airlines, has more Facebook and Twitter followers than many rivals.

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Royal Dutch Airlines, also known as KLM, is letting Facebook and Twitter users book flights, reserve seats and arrange for extra baggage, as well as pay for those services, without leaving the social networks.

“Picture the scene: you’re looking to travel somewhere nice for your vacation, and you’re using Twitter to search out good ideas from friends and contacts,” writes Frederiek Filippo, a KLM social media-focused customer service agent, in a blog post. “You find the perfect place, but you have to leave Twitter to actually book your flight, like some kind of savage.”

Here’s how the system works: a consumer posts a note—either on KLM’s Facebook timeline or on Twitter, including the airline’s @KLM Twitter handle in a tweet—that says he wants to book a flight. The airline says it has 130 social media-focused customer service agents; one then sends a link to the consumer in a private Facebook or Twitter message to pay for the airfare. A pop-up window then appears and the customer can choose his payment method and complete the transaction. A Facebook timeline is the virtual scrapbook on a brand’s page that features a graphical and chronological timeline of notable events and posts shared on the social network.

The airline developed the payment option in response to consumers requesting the feature, says a spokeswoman. “We want to find ways to make social media more useful for our customers,” she says. KLM has nearly 5.2 billion Facebook Likes and more than 804,000 Twitter followers, far more than many other airlines such as United Airlines Inc. and British Airways.

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