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Delta Airlines Love-Hate Relationship with Social Media

We have seen how airlines and airports alike are using social media to reach more potential fliers and to connivence their existing ones. The interactions between industry and customer that we have seen so far have been useful information being given out for the sake of the flier. There is however a side of social media that companies need to be aware of, sometimes things should be answered in a more professional way than via social media.

Delta Airlines is a perfect example of this, Delta had begun to establish themselves online like most other airlines do, starting with a Twitter page and a Facebook page as well. In addition Delta made a separate verified Twitter page for just customer support inquires. One flier tweeted into DeltaAssist about how aggravated she was with her flight delay and subsequent cancellation of her connecting flight. DeltaAssist quickly replied offering to help rebook her new flight through Twitter’s Direct Message service. It allows Twitter users to have conversations that do not show up publicly.

The more unpleasant side of social media relationships effected Delta in February of 2014. Lindsay Jaynes whose 10-week old son is required to eat every two hours, and cannot feed from the bottle or under a cover, asked Delta about their policy on breastfeeding. Delta replied telling the flier that she must cover up so they suggested she pump before hand. Lindsay then replied along with several other Twitter users about the false information given by Delta’s tweet. You are allowed to legally in the United States and Delta has no official policy regarding breastfeeding. While Delta apologized quickly for the misinformation, the damage was already done, and Twitter exploded over the issue. After the brief exchange between Lindsay and Delta the event was over, but the lasting impressions remain. Simply doing a Google search of Delta and Twitter immediately brings up this story.

This is a good example of how far business’s using social media still have to go in terms of working out all of the kinks of using social media effectively. While Delta did nothing wrong in replying to her, they were nice, the tone was there, the rapid response was there. The thing that was missing was taking the extra minute to check their policy’s and facts. One challenge that stares business in the face is finding the balance between rapid responses and quality responses. I think that Delta learned a valuable lesson with no major consequence in this case, but they will have to learn what the correct mediums and times are to use social media.

Southwest Soars Above the Competition

Southwest has always held a top spot for airlines that are using social media, as you read in my last post, but what is it that Southwest is doing that is setting it apart from the rest of competition? Simply put, it is the entirety of their social media presence. The amount of time and resources that they push towards maintaining their predominate presence on social media is what sets them apart. This endeavor has paid off, according to Keynote, a global leader in internet and mobile, cloud testing and monitoring. They named Southwest.com the best in overall customer experience in any US air travel booking websites. In order to measure the effectiveness of the website and the quality of customer support, a series of tests were conducted on each website. Panelists chosen were asked to spend a few minutes on the website and to gather first impressions. After this, they were asked to preform a few routine flight checks and booking checks. They were asked to search for specific flights from the home page and external search engines. The panelist provided additional important information into why Southwest.com is so attractive. The main points were: the ease booking flights and the flight search option, as well as the website looking pleasing.

Aside from a practical website and a Twitter presence, Southwest also has another big social media presence on the web, Nuts about Southwest.

Nuts About Southwest's Home Page

Nuts about Southwest is Southwest’s blog, with a growing team made not only of Southwest employees, but also customers and partners. Here they post regularly about the happenings of Southwest Air. Whether it is major changes in the way the airline operates, or something funny that happened, this blog is completely immersive. Not only is it updated several times a day, but it also allows customers to write in with comments, complaints, and suggestions. In the corner, there are tabs to take you to any other online presence. Southwest has, made this blog a one-stop shop for anything Southwest.

As you can see from the video above, Nuts by Southwest and its contributors aren’t all business. It is videos like this mixed in with interviews with the Founder and Chairmen, and behind the scenes airplane maintenance that provide the viewer with a sense of genuineness. Because of this and the fact that readers can write into the blog and ask questions are what makes this blog such a strong media-marketing tool. I think that Southwest really nailed this one and are is a perfect example of how successful a blog can be when you: realize how to reach your target audience, have a committed and diverse team, and have the reputation of a great brand behind you.

Southwest Makes Friends Using Twitter

Since more and more airlines are adopting social media, Twitter in specific, to accomplish things and interact with customers, the fliers are realizing the increasing ease at which they are able to interact directly with the airlines. Southwest Air thinks so, after the 2013 holiday season, the rate in which fliers interact with the industry via social media skyrocketed. This trend will only continue in greater number in the seasons to come. Fliers are realizing how much voice they have in these companies who are almost constantly monitoring their online presence.

By using records that were set in 2012 from the holiday traffic, Southwest has come up with the most frequently asked questions and have posted them on most of their online profiles, and have also prepped responders to respond to these question quickly. In January of 2014 Southwest launched its Listening Center which is powered by Salesforce Radian6, which is a social media monitoring platform that will allow Southwest to engage its customers in almost real time.

Southwest doesn’t stop at using its online presence to reach fliers and potential fliers. In February of 2013, Southwest engaged in a conversation with JetBlue over Twitter. A frequent flier named Phoenix Robles tweeted that “It’s an aviation geek thing, but it SERIOUSLY annoys me when people abbreviate @SouthwestAir as “SW” and @JetBlue as “JB” *….”. This then continued on in a lighthearted conversation between the two airlines. The two airlines continued on in a light hearted conversation over Twitter, throwing around aviation jargon, and making jokes. A third user, Alexa Rae, tweeted both airlines saying, “You guys friends or something?”

 

JetBlue's Reply

JetBlue’s Reply

 

Southwest's Reply

Southwest’s Reply

It’s nice to see that not only are airlines interacting more with the fliers, but also with each other. Interactions like this speak more for the brand of a company than any amount of advertisement can do. In this interaction, we see the respect and lighthearted genuineness that come from both of these companies. I can only hope to see more interactions like this in the future.

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.

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.

How Important do Industry Leaders Think Social Media is for Their Company?

We’ve seen how airports are using social media in order to further convenience their customers, but do the industry leaders, the other CEO’s, and directors of these Airports think that social media is benefitting their business? With only 7.4% of airports contributing a considerable amount of man-hours per month for social media, one would think that it is not valued in today’s air industry. That is merely a statement coming from an outside observer.

David McMullen, writer for Simpliflying interviewed Paul O’Kane the Director of Public Affairs for Dublin Airport Authority about how he created  Dublin Airport’s online presence on social media. Starting with, their Official Twitter account, which took four months to get the handle, (username) @DublinAirport, because someone who was unaffiliated with the airport was using it. After setting up the account, Paul began to realize it’s true potential. One way that they are utilizing social media is with crisis management.

DublinAirportCrashMarch13_large

The blown tire of the small jet that forced a closure of the main runway in 2013

Go back to winter of 2010; Dublin Airport was hit with several feet of snow causing runway delays and closings. While other airports were having the closing listed on flight boards and being read over the speakers, making the fliers have to stand in front of them anxiously waiting to see the status of their flight, Dublin was tweeting about it. In July of 2013, a small jet landing at Dublin suffered a blown front tire upon landing in which the main runway had to be closed. Paul decided the best way to alert fliers and the media would be to tweet about it. Because of the immediate information output via twitter, they were able to say that the incident had happened and that the airport was still operational with no injuries. Because they got the information out so quickly, the press reported the story from the tweets. This cut down on exposure, and the media making this a bigger deal than it was. In the video below, the full interview with Paul O’Kane from Simpliflying, Paul tells the story of how they used twitter to get UEFA Euro 2012 Championship tickets back to a flier who left them at the airport.

Paul O’Kane and the rest of the Public Affairs Department at Dublin Airport are doing an excellent job at using social media in a smart, effective way. Twitter was only the beginning for Dublin; since then they have made an official Facebook page that has 43,000 likes, and a four star rating from the 840 people who have reviewed it. One of the reasons that Dublin has been met with such success is the way in which they are posting updates on different social media platforms. Paul believes that it is necessary to find the right tone in which to deliver the information. In the interview posted with Paul, he talks about how one of the tweets about the blown tire was revised from “a plane suffered a burst tire” to “there was a tire deflation on the runway.” Paul also says that it is necessary to understand what you are trying to accomplish through social media, and that support from someone higher up in the company. In terms of whether or not Paul thinks that social media is important in the aviation industry, Paul has this to say; “There are two types of aviation people in the world -those who’ve got social media, and those who are about to get it.” It will be interesting to see if the number of airports using social media to reach their customers will increase in the years to come.

Do Airports and Twitter go hand in hand?

In the last post, we saw how London Gatwick Airport was using social media to provide additional services to its fliers. Are they alone, or have they started a trend? Have the fliers even noticed, and if so has this increased the airports traffic? In this post we will look at other airports and how well they are or are not using social media, specifically Twitter.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA, there are over 19,700 airports in the United States. Out of those only 503 currently provide constant steady commercial service. So far, out of the 503, only about 50 have an official presence on twitter. As we saw with London Gatwick Airport, their twitter presence has a pretty big following, and we can see how they used twitter and other social media, such as SoundCloud, to make their customers happier. Why should other Airports be concerned with their presence on Twitter? Well Twitter really is a great platform for any business because it allows immediate feedback and conversation. This may be especially useful for airlines to be able to send updates on flight times and delays. Maybe not for the fliers in the airports, but it would certainly be helpful for relatives and family members who are supposed to be picking up their fliers. Say a plane is mid-flight and has left an hour late. If you are supposed to pick your friend up at 6 P.M. and you aren’t tracking your flight on the computer, you could get a tweet sent from the airports official twitter telling you the status of the flight.

A more comical, but still useful example comes from Ronnie Garrett, in which a director of an unnamed airport tells the story about a man who was in the bathroom and ran out of toilet paper. The distressed man then tweeted to the airline’s official Twitter and the staff was then able to solve the problem. This story is silly, but it goes to show how effective immediate social media services like Twitter could be to airports. Emergency updates could also be broadcast this way. Most of the time you can’t understand what the announcer is even saying , between the noise and poor speakers.

In Agnes Huff’s article she mentions some other ways in which major airports are reaching their fliers with Twitter. Some of the examples are; San Diego Airport who tweeted about a water main break  to 8,105 followers, and Harrisburg Airport who had a discussion  with an unhappy flier due to a long wait time for 5,725 other followers/customers to see.

As we can see, the airports using social media services like twitter have been met with generally positive remarks from their fliers. So why aren’t more airports doing this? Well once again it goes back to man-hours. Airports aren’t willing to pay someone to update social media sites frequently. David McMullen finds that only 7.4% of all airports invest over 150 man-hours per month to social media. Only time will tell whether or not investing more money and work into social media platforms will pay off for airports or not.

How London Gatwick Airport Uses Social Media to Stand Out from the Rest

Through this blog, we will take a look at different airline companies and see how they are utilizing social media. What better place to start than by looking at the Airline industry as a whole, and seeing how airports are using social media to reach fliers. With more and more fliers connecting to social media airports as well as airlines need to be connected. Due to an increase of fliers using smart phones and being constantly connected to a wireless network, Airports need to be able to recognize these trends and capitalize on them; however, as David McMullen finds in his “Harness the Power of Social Media article that only 14.8% of airports are committing 100-150 man-hours per month towards social media. The norm is fewer than 50 hours per month.

It appears that unlike airlines, airports are lagging behind in terms of social media usage and effectiveness. The exception being London Gatwick Airport, whose digital communications manager, Mandie Armstrong began to put it into practice. SimpliFlying takes a look at Gatwick Airport and how they are using social media to redefine themselves as a more family focused airport.

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An example of a sign that would be posted near a line in the airport. The user would then scan the QR code with their device to hear the story.

The aim of their reinvention is to be an easier airport to fly in and out of if you have a big family with little children. In order to take stress away from the parents, Gatwick teamed up with SoundCloud, a music and audiobook streaming website, to use stories written by unpublished children’s authors. These stories were then uploaded to SoundCloud and were available for free download while in the airport. The airport went even further to make a channel on SoundCloud dedicated to these books called the Gatwick Fairytales. These downloads took the form of QR codes, that once scanned, they would take the viewer to a recorded story.

These signs were placed in key ‘line spot’ such as baggage check and claim and boarding party waiting rooms. Then they recorded the downloads. 70 authors contributed work and the most popular stories were downloaded more than 200 times. Gatwick didn’t stop there; after this in order to gauge the effectiveness of the project even more they asked for feedback on their official twitter account. They also hosted a FAQ through their twitter account in which followers could ask any question they liked about the airport and the CEO Stewart Wingate would answer. Since the first of three FAQ segments, their official twitter page has 109,000 followers.