Like airlines and other transportation providers, US airports are increasingly using Twitter to provide timely updates when weather or other events disrupt travel, according to a report by the New York Times.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, for example, used its Twitter account (@PHXSkyHarbor) to alert travellers when an unattended bag resulted in one of its terminals being shut down for several hours last autumn.

The airport also uses Twitter to communicate with travellers who have questions about airport policy and to deliver marketing messages, and in-airport announcements are delivered via Twitter as an alternative to oft-inaudible public-address systems.

Analysts say that social-media outreach can help enhance the airport’s image among travellers, perhaps encouraging them to spend more time dining and shopping while in the terminal awaiting flights.

“They want to make sure the passenger feels his or her time and money is well spent,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Travel Group.

Twitter use by US airports is still in its infancy compared to airlines, however. While big airlines have millions of Twitter followers, the Phoenix airport has just 21,000, while Hollywood Ft Lauderdale International Airport (@FLLflyer) has about 15,000 followers.

Boston’s busy Logan International Airport (@BostonLogan) has 44,000 Twitter followers, and Chicago (@fly2ohare) has around 32,000.

This is in contrast to airports in the UK, such as Manchester (@manairport) which has over a quarter of a million followers, Gatwick (@Gatwick_Airport) which has around 325,000, and Heathrow (@HeathrowAirport) which has 450,000 followers.

The US Transportation Security Administration also maintains a Twitter account where travellers can ask questions (@askTSA).