Published on Thursday, March 10, 2011

Travelmole comment: airline use of social media

Travel expert at Nadine Hallak debates how airlines are using social media channels:

In celebration of Twitter’s 5th birthday on March 21, thought it would be interesting to look into the various marketing opportunities provided by social media by examining airlines and their best uses of it. 

We feel that social media provides a direct and open line of communication from the airline straight to the customer. Not only does it offer a platform for troubleshooting and immediate updates, it also gives consumers a voice, and airlines the ability to connect with them on a personal level, anywhere at any time.
With people tweeting and updating their Facebook status as often as every 20 seconds, particularly in times of crisis, it seems that the future of social media is looking bright. As such, airlines should seek out these top five opportunities as a means of maximising their customer relations.
Customer loyalty
It is crucial that airlines recognise the need for active participation within social media. Speaking with Virgin Atlantic, it is evident that this airline has already built a strong community presence by launching official Twitter and Facebook pages.
Social relations manager for Virgin Kyle Thorne has stated that “these channels add value to our customer service. Social media gives our passengers a way to tell us what we are doing well and where we could improve, all in real time. This gives us an opportunity to help out whenever we can and answer a question or resolve a small issue before it becomes a larger complaint or results in a dissatisfied customer.”
Deal tracking
When it comes to saving money, it seems that the benefits of social media for consumers are massive. Germanwings integrated Facebook and Twitter into its direct marketing mix in 2009, enabling its followers to receive its real-time news as well as its current deals.
Planning, sharing and connectivity
In our opinion, one of the most important elements of social media channels is that they provide a space for airlines to connect with their customers and for customers to connect with each other. Thorne from Virgin explained that Virgin “engages (its) customers through social media channels by providing them with ideas and making them aware of special offers.”
Crisis communications
It was particularly interesting how social media came into play last year when weather disruptions and ash clouds really put airlines to the test. Airlines employed social media to provide consumers with real-time instant updates.
In-flight communications and entertainment
Lastly, it is fascinating to note that airlines have started helping passengers stay connected with each other through the use of social media even while in the air. Falling in the category of ‘entreplanement’, airlines such as Delta, US Airways, Virgin America, and United Airlines are welcoming free access to Facebook on-board through in-flight wi-fi.



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