British Airways and Air New Zealand latest airlines to launch online business communities

Realizing they are not only in the business of taking passengers from one destination to the other, but that they are rather connecting people, a number of airlines have launched social networks of their own in the past years. Think BA’s Metrotwin, Virgin Atlantic’s vtravelled.com, Air France-KLM’s Bluenity and American Airlines’ BlackAtlas.com. Other airlines, such as KLM (Club China, Club Africa, Flying Blue Golf), and Lufthansa (Miles & More MemberScout) have launched business-oriented social networks for members of their frequent flyer programs.

British Airways has just launched an online ‘Face-to-Face Community’ for small business professionals in the U.S, as part of its ‘Face-to-Face’ campaign. Initiated in July 2009, the airline’s ‘Face-to-Face’ program solicited stories from U.S small and medium companies on how a face-to-face meeting overseas would help them during the recession. The 1,000 winning entries received free travel on three special BA flights from New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to London and beyond to make their meetings a reality. BA says the people who went on the first Face-to-Face trips at that time asked how they could stay in touch with each other, hence the online network.

Air New Zealand (ANZ) just added an online community, called ‘InKoru’, to its Koru premium services program. For NZD495 (EUR270, USD350) a year (frequent flyer can pay with ANZ Airpoints miles), the Koru program gives members access to ANZ’s Koru lounges, priority reservations, waitlisting, and baggage services, as well as preferred seating and valet parking. ANZ says the new InKoru online network is about “breaking Koru out of the Koru Lounge and building a whole raft of new opportunities for members.” Says Simon Pomeroy, ANZ’s Head of Customer Loyalty: “The lounge environment is often Koru’s focus, but it’s actually the conversations taking place there that matter most. We’re now opening up those conversations so they can happen anywhere. Koru is no longer just a place, it’s a space that’ll be open 24/7 – an online network of knowledge, experience and business support created by members, for members.”

InKoru members can start or join forums and groups and tell people when they are traveling, so they can share a beer or a wine in the lounge. ANZ says that over in the next months it will expand the community with, for example, problem sharing forums, mentoring, hosting business speakers at local Koru events or helping members promote their products and services. Members will also be able to bring their LinkedIn profile into the site. ANZ however rightfully says that “It’s up to members to determine where this goes. It’s all about personal choice – some may see great potential in networking outside of the lounge in this way, others may just want to enjoy their coffee and a quiet 20 minutes on their laptop before they fly.”

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