With more than 180 international airline carriers (source from SimpliFlying) on Twitter and Facebook, these social media platforms have provided airline companies with an informal and instantaneous way to connect with potential and present customers. How are airlines using social media to increase their return on investments and branding?
Here are some good and not-so-good uses of social media by major airline companies in the Web 2.0 sphere:
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – adding fun into business and social media engagement
When KLM announced its launch of a new route from Amsterdam to Miami from 27 March 2011 via Twitter in November last year, DJ Sied Van Riel replied that the launch date would be too late for the many spring events in Miami. KLM dared the DJ to fill up a plane and they will try to fly on an earlier date (via a Twitter reply). And flew they did, with DJ Sied Von Riel’s music playing in the airwaves and many great publicity across the traditional media outlets too.
- Malaysia Airlines (MH) – upping the “Friends” function on Facebook
MH launched its MHBuddy app allowing its passengers to book flights and check-in via Facebook. The up-selling factor is that you’re able to use a social graph mapping system to find out which cities your friends may be in and where they’ll be sitting at if they’re on the same MH flight.That’s of course if they’ve allowed the MHBuddy app to access their information.You can choose to sit with your friends OR avoid them with MHBuddy.The downside about the MHBuddy app is that while there’s a fun and what’s-in-it-for-me element, it doesn’t quite translate to enhancing MH’s profits or acquiring qualitative social media feedback for the airline because there isn’t any means to understand customer satisfaction nor is there a feedback and participatory function in this app.
- Tiger Airways – roaring into nothingness
With many complaints and negative feedback online about Tiger Airways’ constant flight cancellations and delays, Tiger (Australia)’s social media engagement does not seems to want to deal with all these negativity from its customers. It’s Twitter accountonly boasts of sales information broadcasted and nothing else. Tiger Airways doesn’t even have an email address for its customers to write in to, but only a physical mailing address. You’ll need to work harder Tiger, starting with the basic communication tools made available to your publics.Tiger Airways Singapore also has its own Twitter account where sales, contests and competitions are promoted. While it is important to provide differentiations for the markets it serve, core customer service cannot be replaced by contests and promotions.
Airlines invest millions in their technologies and recruitment training exercises. While the same attention and budget may not be applied in its public relations and social media engagement efforts, airline companies could consider upping their investments (especially time and resources) in their communication and PR departments to complement their businesses.
After all, well-managed communication tools such as social media, along with traditional PR, are catalysts for increased airline sales and brand enhancement.