Exclusive Interview: How Eurocontrol battled the ashcloud crisis through social media

For the first time on the web (and in English!), in this exclusive interview with SimpliFlying, we hear directly from the horse’s mouth. Aurelie Valtat was the person leading Eurocontrol’s much talked-about ashcloud response, and personally helped out thousands of stranded passengers using social media.

On April 14, 2010, the eruption of the Icelandic volcano [i still can’t pronounce the name!] resulted in chaos — more than 100,000 flight cancellations between April 15 and 21 — affecting millions of travelers, and the fallout cost the airline industry $1.7 billion. The silver lining was social media – and how airlines and authorities reached out to stranded passengers to help them out. And Eurocontrol led from the front. Eurocontrol’s efforts were much admired on this blog, and on other leading websites like Mashable.

In my conversation with Aurelie, she spoke at length about how she handled the tasks, challenges encountered and lessons learnt. Below is a summary of the exclusive video interview (Click here if you’re unable to watch the video interview)

  • What Eurocontrol does? (0:31)
  • An overview of how the events unfolded after the eruption (1:02)
  • Why the public was being informed by Eurocontrol? (1:55)
  • Why Eurocontrol set up their social media assets in the first place? (2:40)
  • How the concerns of aviation professionals as well as passengers were handled through multiple channels (3:10)
  • How Aurelie handled all requests and processes herself? (3.55)
  • How were decisions on content on social media taken? (4:40)
  • What were some of the challenges encountered in the process? (5:35)
  • How working with other Twitterers like @airlineindustry helped use of common hashtags (6:33)
  • Key indicators of success? (7:10)
  • In hindsight, what would have been done differently? (7:41)
  • Why collaborating with airlines was important (8:21)
  • How will crises management be better in a future eruption? (9:00)

So, what do you think about EuroControl’s handling of the crisis? Is it repeatable? Isn’t it refreshing to learn about such a visionary effort in times of crises? Let’s discuss in the comments or over on Twitter (@simpliflying)

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Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is the Founder and CEO of SimpliFlying, one of the world’s largest aviation marketing firms working with over 85 aviation clients in the last ten years. Nigam is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior executives globally, from Chile to China. Nigam’s impassioned and honest perspectives on airline marketing have found their way to over 100 leading media outlets, including the BBC, CNBC, Reuters and Bloomberg, and into leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He writes a dedicated monthly column in Flight’s Airline Business, challenging the typical assumptions about airline marketing. His new book on airline marketing, SOAR, is an Amazon bestseller that’s shaking up the industry and inspiring other industries to learn from the best airlines. Born in India, raised in Singapore, he now lives with his wife and two young daughters in Toronto.
Shashank Nigam
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Showing 6 comments
  • oussama

    If it wasn't for Social Media the flow of information would have been slower and the confusion greater. Kudos to Eurocontrol and other airlines for taking the initiative and proving the efficiency of Social Media in disseminating information.
    I firmly believe that Social Media is an essential part of branding and PR in aviation http://oussamastake.blogspot.com/2010/04/erp-20

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