Month: March 2014

How American Airlines Is Using More than Just Twitter to Convenience Fliers.

So far we have seen the dedication of manpower and resources to run online presences for large airline companies. We have also seen that simply having an online presence like Twitter or Facebook is becoming inadequate for standing out among the competition.

Let’s look at American Airlines, one of the biggest Airline companies in today’s field. American Airline’s social media presence includes a Twitter, Facebook, and a blog and travel planning section on their website. “American Airline’s social media team involves 23 employees, with 17 dedicated to customer service” (Edward). Most of the staff is located at their headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. American keeps one employee in London and two in Lima, Peru to provide quick responses at all hours of the day, regardless of location. In terms of manpower, American Airlines is directing more of it towards online monitoring than other airlines that we have looked at so far. And with 17 of those 23 employees on the social media team focused on customer service, that means that using social media to alert the airport of something broken or out of place is a good strategy to use when dealing with American Airlines.

While American Airlines is putting more resources into social media presence, is it enough to make them stand out from other airlines whose social presence is on the rise as well? One thing that American Airlines has decided to do to give them the extra edge in flier social media comfort is their on demand video steaming to your own personal device. This concept is very similar to renting a movie or show from a traditional store like BlockBuster; once you pay for the movie you have 24 hours to watch it as many times as you’d like. Say you don’t finish your movie on the plane or you fall asleep and miss the end, you can even watch it again at your destination for up to 24 hours. This new feature really changes the nature of in-flight entertainment. Because fliers can access their content directly from their mobile device, the need for seat mounted is becoming a thing of the past. And so is only having a choice of three different movies to pick from.

The American Airlines Logo Before and After Rebranding

The American Airlines Logo Before and After Rebranding

Aside from using social media to convenience, and entertain their fliers, American Airlines used their online presence on Youtube to help their rebranding, and to merge with US Airways. With any industry, when a company attempts to rebrand they can lose customers if the transition isn’t smooth. American Airlines rebranding and merger was quite successful. Part of the reason for this seamless rebranding is the quality of the company’s Youtube videos. Not only are they of excellent quality, but they are clear and do a good job of making sure loyal customers are informed of any changes to the company, both aesthetically as well as functionally.

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How Virgin America is Staying Ahead of the Social Media Takeoff

So far we have seen Airlines and Airports who are using social media to reach its fliers, and most of these corporations seem to be leading the way with Twitter. What is the next step for airlines? What will make an airline stand out now that it seems to be the norm to have an official Twitter page? Well Virgin Airlines is asking that question and coming up with solutions. While they may not be the biggest airline, they are making breakthroughs in the way they are using social media and the way their fliers can access it.

In  May of 2009, Virgin Airlines became the first airline to offer fleet wide Wifi accessibility and still today remains the only airline that offers Wifi on every flight.  Even more impressive than that is that in February of 2014 Virgin Airlines announced that it would be teaming up with Here on Biz to offer their fliers the first ever in flight social network. Here on Biz is an application for Iphones and other smart devices that keeps track of your professional contacts that you can import from other sites like LinkedIn. It tracks your location and the location of your contacts as you travel and keeps you updated on when your paths cross during your travels. This could be particularly useful for companies who send their employees to conferences, flights could be used to plan and send out schedules between coworkers. This new service that launched in March of 2014 is also a new way to bring in more revenue for the airline. While the application is free to download and can be used even when not inflight, in order to use it inflight you must pay for a subscription to the airlines inflight Wifi service called Gogo. This isn’t the first time that Virgin Airlines has made an attempt to get fliers communicating with each other during flights. In early 2013 Virgin Airlines launched Seat to Seat texting and delivery.  Using this, fliers could look at a screen attached to the seat back in front of them and by looking at a grid of all the other seats on the flight and communicate with other fliers and even send them food and drinks.

While admittedly it is a neat feature, it has very little real use other than attempting to flatter other fliers as seen in the comical promotional video done by Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group. Virgin America is hoping that this new way of social communication will be a little bit more productive. “The best business connections often happen unexpectedly, and we’ve heard many stories of partnerships and start-up ideas being born on our flights,” says Luanne Calvert, Virgin America’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We hope this is an interesting, easy way for entrepreneurs to take advantage of downtime in-flight to build or renew their professional connections.” In order to promote this new feature Virgin America is offering discounted tickets, as well as a Twitter contest. This contest invites users to tweet their dream business travel connection and how they would break the ice with them using the hash-tag #PlanePitch. Winners are chosen weekly and receive complimentary Gogo Wifi passes and a grand prize winner will get Virgin America Elevate Gold Status.

It will be interesting to see  how well this new service catches on, and whether or not we will be hearing about any major business being done on one of these flights. As the success of this first experiment of in flight social interaction takes place, we will have to wait and see if other airlines began offering similar services.

JetBlue Leads the Way with Tweets

So far in the previous post we have looked at how Airports have began using Social Media and using it to better convenience their fliers. Now we will shift our attention from Airports to Airlines. Airlines are one of the best industries in today’s world that are trying to use social media to solve problems and benefit their fliers. The first company we will look at, and visit again later, is JetBlue. We’ll look at how they are using Twitter to help their fliers and see what else they are doing to best utilize the ever-growing tool called social media.

JetBlue has become one of the biggest corporations that uses Twitter the social media website. They are the largest Airline to use it and have the largest number of followers out of all other Airlines on Twitter. As of now they have 1.8 Million followers and over 175,000 tweeted messages. Their Facebook presence is also growing, with 894,884 likes on their Facebook page; this is used to tell potential fliers of any major changes to the Airline. Things like seating upgrades, specials, and they also do give away contests where you can win anything from discounted flights to free trips. JetBlue’s attention to twitter takes 6 people from their corporate communication department to monitor the page from the start of the day to the end of the day. It is this constant monitoring that makes their use of twitter so successful and efficient.

With six people whose jobs are to monitor a twitter page and JetBlue’s other social media presence, there is a good amount of manpower being used. How effective is this in terms of boosting profits for the company? An interview with Marty St. George the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Commercial at JetBlue reveals how important this is to the company whether or not the presence on social media sites is directly related to sales or not. “The utility is not what it does to the bottom line but how it works as a marketing tool, real-time customer feedback is a gift.” Marty realizes that not only is he building JetBlue’s brand image with his use of Twitter, but is also building brand loyalty, which is how you increase in profit. Marty goes on to talk about how JetBlue, being a successful company, is getting bigger and bigger everyday. How can they go about staying small and holding onto the customer service values that the company was built on? The answer for JetBlue was social media: “One of the things that has been a factor in our pursuit and embrace of social media is our customer base, JetBlue has a customer base that skews more affluent, younger, and much more tech-savvy than the traditional airline.” While Marty is not quite sure what the next steps are for JetBlue, he knows they will include the use of new technologies and social media to reach their fliers.

While it may seem that JetBlue has had a loving relationship with social media, they have been at the other end of the rope. On August 9, 2010 a flight from Pittsburg to New York was landing, where a flight attendant by the name of Steven Slater was involved in an altercation with an unruly customer who accidentally hit Slater in the head with her luggage. Slater then replied by yelling, “I’m done” and taking a beer before he slid down the emergency exit of the airplane. The event went viral and Time listed it at number two in the Top Ten Travel Moments of 2010. The company decided that they needed to respond quickly, yet not so quickly that important were facts are ignored. They waited a few days before first responding on its blog, BlueTales, and with a memo to its employees. The memo released by CEO David Barger stated, “Let me just say this: JetBlue will always seek to prosecute people who physically harm or threaten to harm a crew member or customer. Period.” Slater was put on suspension from the company and then later removed.

JetBlue despite having a viral negative message has not focus on the past but instead looks toward to the future, continuing to develop their online presence and think of new ways to conveniently use social media for their fliers.