5 Ways to Incorporate Social Media Into the Flying Experience, and leverage on your “followers”

So you and your team have been driving social media strategy at your airline or airport for over six months. You’ve managed to get over 5,000 fans on Facebook, you Tweet regularly, may be even have an iPhone app and have a ton of proposals already in mind to implement. Awesome! Now, what?

You do realize that it’s the in-flight experience that makes or breaks a customer relationship, right? How do you make their in-flight experience an unforgettable one using social media? And then how do you get them to talk about it? Well, here are 5 ways to do that:

1. Use a unique Hashtag for the flight

Aim: Improve customer experience

Why not include a hashtag for each flight number with the booking confirmation? It can be something simple, such as #0311JB1263 (March 11th, Jet Blue flight #1263). That way, when people send a tweet saying they just booked a flight, or are heading to the airport, they use that hashtag, and then can search for others using the same hashtag. Passengers can make their own arrangements to meet up at the gate, share a cab to the airport, or chat during the flight. They will feel much more connected to fellow travelers, if they would like to be.

2. Give freebies to those to “talk” about you

Objective: Increase word of mouth, improve customer experience

In order to encourage passengers to talk about your airline, you can run a small promotion before take-off. If they tweet or update their Facebook status and include your airline name, they will win one of 5 drinks being awarded, or pillows, or blankets – whatever you’d otherwise charge for. In order to be eligible, they must use your Twitter handle or “tag” you in their Facebook update. Winners will be selected at random before the flight takes off, so that electronics are still in use, and the drink can be awarded during flight.

3. Seating Charts with Twitter IDs

Objective: Increase word of mouth, improve customer experience

Why not give passengers the ability to see fellow passengers’ Twitter IDs when selecting their seats when booking or during checkin?  They may choose to sit near (or avoid!) someone based on their profile or tweets.  For those who like to network, this will increase their opportunity to do so.  And, most assuredly, they will tweet about the experience, giving you more word of mouth.

Note: Obviously this would need to be an opt-in service, which could be accomplished easily using Twitter’s OAuth system. Or if you want to avoid the trouble, just add in a field in the booking path, asking the passenger for his Twitter id

4. In-flight chat rooms if you have wi-fi on-board

Objective: Improve customer experience

Why not set up a chat room for Twitter users using TweetChat so they can chat during flight.  Not only will this give them something to do, and interact with other passengers, but you will undoubtedly get some marketing research at the same time.  They’ll talk about the food, the seats, the flight attendants, etc.  You can also set up a private chat room through Facebook, but that will take more technical expertise.

5. “Check-in” on FourSquare, not just onto the flight

Objective: Increase word of mouth, improve customer experience


Location based services, such as FourSquare, Gowalla and MyTown are the latest craze in social media.  Users “check-in” at stores, buildings, offices when they arrive.  Why not offer a bonus for checking in at your airline with one of these services?  Maybe advanced seating, a free drink free headphones or wireless access.

What other ideas do you have to improve customer experience using social media? Let’s hear them out

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Showing 8 comments
  • tiffanymura

    These are all great ideas! As a digital strategist who travels frequently, I find this site’s posts especially relevant.

    Some thoughts on other things the airlines could be doing. Item #1 and #2 could also be used to obtain customer feedback/insights, and improve customer experience/service on a more formal basis (as opposed to the more generic customer service work JetBlue does by Twitter monitoring). The flight crew could remind passengers to give their feedback on that flight experience by tweeting with either the unique flight hashtag or customer service channel hashtags (e.g, #JBCrew, #JBService, etc.) to direct the feedback. The airlines could encourage this by choosing random passengers who tweet usable feedback and awarding them discounts, drink vouchers, etc. This would, of course, require regular social media monitoring, which the airlines should be doing anyway. And they would have to demonstrate that they use the feedback they are getting.

    The airlines also need to do a better job of marrying frequent fliers and their word of mouth marketing through social media by identifying and cultivating brand evangelists. The suggestion in #2 to give freebies to those who talk about an airline should be taken a step further for brand evangelists who talk frequently about the airline and motivate their network members to use the airline. By simply doing the regular social media monitoring recommended above, the airlines could identify these evangelists and reach out to them. Giving out an occasional ‘thank you’ by awarding discounts or vouchers to random evangelists is a nice start. But they could do even more and enhance their frequent flier programs with features that enable loyal brand evangelists to get credit for their social network members who book travel on that particular airlines as a result of the evangelists recommendation.

  • Rachel Levy

    @tiffanymura Thanks so much for such a thorough comment! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Customer service is a great way to use Twitter, and I think there are many ways to achieve that, whether it be during flight, or post flight. And, I really like the idea of tying in evangelism with social media…. a post will be coming in the next few weeks about that, so thanks for getting the ideas flowing early!

  • Michelle Batten

    Hi Shashank –

    I definitely agree airlines need to start taking their social media programs to the next level. Social networking at the airport and in-flight are two areas I believe that are especially ripe – we're already starting to see customers exhibit these behaviors with inpromptu TweetUps at gates and most recently Jeremiah Owyang's call for a #sxswnerdbird on Twitter.

    Another area that I think airlines should consider is Social Gaming. Passengers are often bored while waiting for flights or in-flight – why not encourage them to use the wi-fi to check up on their Farmville or engage in some Bejewelled or other gaming passion? The air carrier could potentially host in-flight tournaments – imagine, not only playing with the people flying with you, but others on other flights.

    Regarding cultivating brand loyalists, I think there is an opportunity to incorporate social brand contributions to the airline loyalty program. The programs have always been based on miles flown/dollars spent. Yet, now there are times when business travelers are not able to fly but still contribute value either by recommendations or perhaps helpful tips to other passengers that should be recognized. It would be interesting for frequent flyers who find themselves short the traditional mileage to qualify for tiered status to be presented the option to achieve their status based on their contributions to the flying community. The more you help your fellow flyers (e.g. share info on gate changes, flight delays, tips on the fastest security lines, etc.) the greater your standing as voted by your peers. Perhaps being a good social citizen could be worth up to 10-15% of a flyer's qualification requirements.

    At a minimum, airlines have the opportunity to ask their passengers through these tools about the products and services they would like to see. Virgin America has modeled this well so far – they recently polled their social community to create their new in-flight bar. Hopefully we'll see more of this in the coming months.

    Look forward to seeing you at Eye For Travel Social Media in San Francisco!


    • Rachel Levy

      Thanks for your comment! I really like the idea of social gaming, especially
      with playing against other passengers or flights. And re your frequent
      flyer ideas…. that could go far, including giving credit for passengers
      tweeting about an airline.

      Great ideas all around. Thanks.!

    • Shashank Nigam

      Hey Michelle,

      Glad you enjoyed the ideas. And airlines like KLM are already
      implementing some of these, like the unique hashtag for a flight.
      That's the best accolade we can receive.

      I love your idea on getting people to play games with each other when
      they have wifi, and in-flight tournaments do have to potential to take
      off. You've given me fodder for my next article 🙂

      And your idea about travelers helping travelers – BANG on target! It
      will drive loyalty like nothing else. And I'm already thinking of ways
      in which this can be done.

      See you at SXSW!

  • mohit jain

    twitter is the great way to promote any airline as many of the Indian airlines are doing like Kingfisher, JetAirways etc

  • Nitin Chauhan

    Blowing social media flies with some good airlines companies. I am impressed with how the airlines are using Social Media activities in their business.
    Here is an example of some airlines using Social Media aggrievedly.
    Four Airlines using Social Media Productively


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