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IAL REPOR PEC TS High society By David Carroll airlines are determined to get to know you better – and they’re using facebook, twitter and linkedin to do it.G enerally, airlines aren’t big on gambling. The airline has engaged in plenty of other stunts However, it hasn’t all been light-hearted fun. But in the quicksilver world of social media, using social networks. Last November, it organised Air New Zealand’s Christchurch Quake Support where fortune tends to favour the brave, a “tweet-up”, in which 18 frequent flyers were invited Facebook page attracted more than two millioncarriers are conducting some clever and entertaining to travel on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and share views and became a vital hub for connectingexperiments. And travellers are reaping the rewards. the experience on Twitter. The initiative generated friends, families and businesses. It’s hard to imagine any airline has had a more fun hundreds of tweets and photos, as well as a marriage Jo Brothers, Air New Zealand’s communications“social life” that Air New Zealand. In 2009, the airline proposal in the cockpit of the aircraft. manager for digital and social media, says socialscored a YouTube hit with a cheeky in-flight safety Perhaps Air New Zealand’s most endearing social media activities have helped the airline inject “a lotvideo featuring staff members covered only in body media creation is the Airpoints Fairy. For the past few of personality” into its brand. “We realise that wepaint. Since then, it has entertained viewers with years, the airline’s customers have used Twitter and need to be creative, edgy and first to market withclips featuring flamboyant US exercise guru Richard Facebook to ask the fairy to grant them a wish – such social media,” she says. “There is no doubt that it helpsSimmons and a controversial puppet called Rico, as a retro cabin bag, lounge access or extra loyalty differentiate Air New Zealand from competitors.”who had his own Twitter and Facebook accounts points – and every day she has obliged one believer. Airlines are using social media to find new ways ofand met celebrities such as Snoop Dogg and adding value for passengers, and particularly frequentDavid Hasselhoff, before the airline got rid of him. carriers are using social flyers. “It’s a time of opportunity, when new ideas canAir New Zealand claims its creative endeavours media to find new ways of come to the fore, when people can try new things.have garnered almost 30 million YouTube views. adding value for passengers. But [our efforts] are still very much in their infancy.” September 2012 | the deal 27
L REPO CIA R PE T S Plenty of other airlines are exploring ideas some of the more adventurous airline marketersof their own. Between January and March this a little uncomfortable, it’s “social seating”,year, for instance, New York-based JetBlue in which passengers use social media networksAirways allowed members of its TrueBlue loyalty to find the perfect in-flight companion.program to earn points and special discounts The Malaysia Airlines program MHbuddywhen they used a Facebook application to tell is a Facebook application that lets users searchfriends they were at a JetBlue terminal. for a flight, book a seat and then see if any of Lufthansa has also been busy creating some their Facebook friends are heading to the sameclever smartphone apps that mean members destination or are on the same departure. If theyof its Miles and More frequent-flyer program can are, the passenger can then notify their mates ofask other members for travel ideas and assistance. their trip plans and select a seat beside them.Users can arrange to meet or share a taxi and KLM and airBaltic have gone further. Inthey can access location-based offers. February, the Dutch carrier started its “Meet Latvian carrier airBaltic is using crowd- & Seat” service – now on all intercontinentalsourcing to help create a new tier for its flights to and from Amsterdam – which letsBalticMiles loyalty program. The carrier has participants see where fellow passengers areasked its Facebook followers to suggest partners sitting and check out their Facebook or LinkedInfor the tier and to nominate member benefits. profiles before selecting a seat. Before the flightOther followers can then vote for their favourite passengers can use departs, passengers can even get in touch, meetideas through Facebook “likes” and contributors social media networks for a coffee or arrange shared transport.of the most popular concepts will receive points. to choose the perfect If that sounds frightening, you’ll be pleased toThe BalticMiles Facebook fan count increased in-flight companion. know the program is entirely voluntary. And evenby 20 per cent on the campaign’s launch day and when passengers choose to take part, if they don’tthe initiative has generated more than 400 ideas. like their assigned neighbour, they can switch Rival Estonian Air is also engaging with Facebook regardless of how often they fly or even if they do seats before departure and withdraw their profile.aficionados through AirScore, a social media-based not fly with the airline,” Shubhodeep Pal, senior KLM says the service has been most popular withloyalty program that lets participants earn points innovation officer at SimpliFlying, says. “In addition business travellers who want to network or connectwithout taking a flight. Once someone signs up to the to providing an opportunity for the airline to activate with people travelling to the same conference or event.app in Facebook, they earn points by contributing ‘sleeping’ frequent flyers, who may not travel enough In June, airBaltic teamed up with Hong Kong-flight-related stories, getting friends to join or simply to earn points, it also encourages non-flyers to redeem based Satisfly to offer its own social seating system,sharing information about Estonian Air on their these points by converting to fly with the airline, SeatBuddy. Passengers create their profile and selectFacebook wall. Points can be redeemed for prizes. as seen in the case of Estonian Air’s AirScore.” one of four flight moods – work, relax, business talk SimpliFlying, a consulting firm that has advised Pal sees the growing introduction of in-flight and easy chat. They also describe their ideal neighbour.more than 25 airlines and airports on customer connectivity as offering “a multitude of opportunities” The airline uses all three elements to find the bestengagement, says programs such as AirScore for airlines to engage passengers in-flight. “For in-flight buddy and assigns the seat before check-in.encourage customers to become brand advocates. example, a passenger who uploads photos of their Satisfly founder Sergio Mello, who developed In July last year, the company partnered with in-flight meal can be rewarded instantly for advocacy. SeatBuddy after too many uninspiring in-flightCranfield University in Britain to survey 200 frequent And if someone tweets about bad service, the cabin neighbours, says the system could be rolled out to railflyers and found that more than 70 per cent of them crew can immediately address this problem.” operators, cruise lines and coach tour companies.were attracted to a social loyalty scheme. What From a customer service perspective, social media At this stage, that’s a prospect unlikely to exciterespondents found particularly attractive was the networks have already radically changed how airlines Air New Zealand’s Brothers. “There is something topossibility of earning rewards by promoting an deal with disgruntled passengers. Just last month, be said for the mystery of not knowing who you’ll sitairline and contributing feedback. They were also Alaska Airlines was forced into damage control when next to,” she says. Nevertheless, Brothers is confidenteager to generate points by using location-based a passenger took to Facebook to complain that she that the innovation and creativity sparked by socialsocial networking websites such as Foursquare had seen a man with Parkinson’s disease miss his media has been a positive development for airlinesor Gowalla to “check in” at airport lounges or flight because staff had offered him no assistance. and passengers. “There has been some greatin key destinations, something Air New Zealand The airline’s initial claim that staff had not reacted engagement. People feel a lot closer to the brand andand British-based bmibaby have already explored. because they smelled alcohol caused such an online in some cases we have become intimate with people’s “Social loyalty schemes reward all brand advocates, ruckus that the airline was forced to apologise and lives and businesses. I think that’s a good thing.” td announce it was working with a disability advocacy group to learn from the experience. If there is one social media concept that makes even28 September 2012 | the deal