Twitter

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.

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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.

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.

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.