CRM / LOYALTY

Malaysia Airlines lets members book, check-in and select their seat via Facebook

Malaysia Airlines in partnership with technology provider SITA have launched a new Facebook application, called MHbuddy, that allows users to search, book and pay for flights with the airline directly through Facebook. Malaysian is not the first to introduce such functionality (see “Delta first airline to sell tickets on Facebook”), but the airline has gone several steps further by integrating the booking process with the user’s Facebook profile, allowing members of the popular social network (over 800 million active users worldwide) for example to identify friends who might be on the same flight.

Says Amin Khan, Executive VP Commercial Strategy at Malaysia Airlines, “Our passengers are spending more and more time using social networks. […] With MHbuddy we are pleased to provide our fans an easy way to book a ticket without having to leave Facebook. In doing so, we have also opened another distribution channel for ticket sales.”

The Social Flight
During the search and booking phase, Facebook users can open an additional box to see if any of their Facebook friends are on the same flight or expected to be in the same destination during the selected period. Users can then send a message to notify friends of their trip plans.

For the outbound flight, passengers can also check-in from within the Facebook module, and obtain an email booking reference and boarding pass or, on domestic routes, an SMS mobile boarding card. And here it gets really inventive: At this stage users are also shown any seats which have been selected by friends who are travelling on the same flight, so they can choose to pick nearby seat. With this feature Malaysia Airlines and SITA take a first step towards Internet guru Jeff Jarvis’ concept of ‘The Social Flight’, an idea which is also behind social network Satisfly.
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The Next Frontier: KLM to sell tickets for suborbital space flights

KLM has partnered with Space Experience Curacao (SCX), a commercial suborbital space flight venture planning to operate out of its Space Port on the Caribbean island of Curacao. SCX will offer passengers a few minutes of weightlessness beyond Earth’s atmosphere and a view of the planet from about 105 km (65 miles) above ground. KLM has registered for the first flights from the island in the Dutch Antilles and also will be supporting future suborbital flights through promotion and sale of the tickets, for example as part of vacation packages to Curacao. The airline will also enable frequent fliers to put their points toward flights into space. KLM CEO Peter Hartman said of the new suborbital spaceflight partnership: “It is a fantastic project that totally fits the pioneering spirit of KLM.” A KLM spokeswoman said the airline still had to work out exactly what the criteria would be to earn a space flight ticket — which sells for EUR70,000 (USD95,000). 

XCOR ‘Lynx’
Space Experience Curacao was founded in 2008 by a former commander of the Royal Dutch Air Force and an air force test pilot and has backing from private equity investors and Hato International Airport in Curacao. The company signed a deal in October 2010 to lease a sub-orbital spacecraft called the ‘Lynx’ and a pilot from U.S-based XCOR Aerospace,. The Lynx takes off and lands horizontally and is designed to fly to over 100 km in altitude up to four times per day. The spacecraft has just two seats, meaning that it can carry just one passenger at a time who is sitting right up front like a co-pilot, instead of in back. The total flight time would be about 30 minutes, with the passenger experiencing just over four minutes of weightlessness. To see how an XCOR suborbital flight would look like, see this video (recommended). Pending U.S. government approvals for the spacecraft, Space Experience Curacao hopes to start flights in January 2014. Read full article »

Qantas unveils iPhone app for frequent flyers, adds augmented reality

As the number of airlines that have rolled out applications (apps) for mobile devices such as the iPhone grows (around 30 at last count), the types of apps are becoming more specific. Qantas has just released a dedicated app for the seven million members of its ‘Frequent Flyer’ loyalty program. Standard elements of the carrier’s new iPhone app include access to current point balance and personal profile, features which are also offered by several ‘general’ apps of other airlines. 

Earn and burn
The main focus of the Qantas Frequent Flyer app, however, is to show members the wide range of earn and burn options of the loyalty program. In the past years, Qantas has been turning its frequent flyer program into one with a broader appeal, and in 2009 teamed up with Australia’s largest retailer Woolworths to combine their loyalty programs. Qantas’ objective is to turn Frequent Flyer into Australia’s dominant loyalty program, much like Aeroplan in Canada. Aeroplan, which manages Air Canada’s loyalty program, was spun off from the airline via an IPO in 2005, and today Aeroplan’s market value is more than three times that of Air Canada.

Points goals
The Qantas Frequent Flyer app has a number of interesting features. Users can ‘flip’ easily – ‘iTunes style’ – through award flights (including an estimate of the surcharges, fees and taxes payable) and through a large catalogue of non-flight awards, to find out how many points they need. Based on their preferred flights or goods, members can set themselves points goals, track progress, and get notified once their goal has been achieved. It is also possible to let others know via Facebook and Twitter when a points goal has been reached. Read full article »

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Airlines, airports and hotels experiment with location-based social networks

Airlines, airports and hotels are starting to embrace the latest trend in social media: location-based social networks. The most popular platform is currently Foursquare, which has 2.7 million users worldwide (of which 60% in the U.S.) and is adding 100,000 users per week. Foursquare allows members to share their current physical location with friends via their gps-enabled cellphone when they enter a new location, a procedure also known as ‘checking-in’. Foursquare just reached 100 million ‘check-ins’ and says that the most popular venues are transit-related locations such as airports and train stations.

An important social status element of foursquare are ‘badges’. Points are awarded for ‘checking in’ at a locations, and by checking in frequently, visiting specific locations, or performing tasks members can earn badges. For example, the ‘Jetsetter’ badge can be earned by visiting an airport 5 times, and the ‘Airport’ badge can be earned by visiting 5 different airports. 

Since early August 2010, foursquare users can also check-in at 30,000 feet. Passengers in the U.S who use Gogo’s inflight Internet service can earn a special foursquare ‘Mile High Badge’, once they connect. Gogo is hoping that foursquare users will be tempted to try out its WiFi service if they know that they will receive a special badge for using it, as many foursquare users are avid badge hunters. Read full article »

Qantas unveils ‘next generation’ check-in for its frequent flyers

Qantas has unveiled what it calls a ‘next generation’ check-in experience. The new ground service provides premium Qantas passengers on domestic flights with a smart card-based check-in, as well as electronic bags tags that keeps track of their luggage. The new check-in is designed by renowned designer Marc Newson who earlier created Qantas’ A380 cabin and its first class lounges

The ‘next generation’ check-in will be trialled from August 1st in Perth among 100,000 Qantas premium Frequent Flyer members, who will receive a new smart chip-embedded Qantas Frequent Flyer card, called the ‘Q Card’. Passengers arriving at the airport who have not already checked in either online or on their mobile, can check in simply by tapping their Q card against a scanning point. A visual alert confirms a successful check-in, and the frequent flyer card is turned into an electronic boarding card, which the passenger can use to self-board at the gate. Travelers also receive a confirmation SMS with details such as seat number, departure gate and boarding time. Read full article »

‘On the Fly’ course teaches travelers how to make the most of frequent flyer programs

There is no shortage of online help for frequent flyers to help make sense of the often complex and often changing policies in airline loyalty programmes. Websites such as Flyertalk, FrequentFlier.com, InsideFlyer and ExpertFlyer.com aim to help travelers make the most of frequent flyer programs, often by letting community members help eachother. 

Now, Nicholas Kralev, who has flown more than 1.5 million miles during the past decade in his job as the diplomatic correspondent and business travel columnist for The Washington Times, has launched a smart ‘feeder business’ concept: ‘On the Fly’ seminars, named after his weekly column in the Washington Times, are real-life ‘frequent flyer 101’ courses that aim to educate participants on the best ways to benefit from frequent flyer perks when traveling.
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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.
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Air New Zealand’s ‘Airpoints Fairy’ honours a wish a day

Air New Zealand  (ANZ) has come up with a clever way to surprise members of its Airpoints frequent flyer program. ANZ’s ‘Airpoints Fairy’ once a day pubicly will grant a customer’s wish. ANZ Airpoints members can make wishes via Twitter and hope that ANZ’s ‘Airpoints Fairy’ will honour their request. Says the Airpoints Fairy: “You can wish for whatever you want, but I can only grant wishes for Airpoints members. Most wishes I grant are related to Airpoints or a few other services Air New Zealand offer.”

The wishes that are granted can be big or small, and wishes so far have included requests for 500 Airpoints, lounge passes, to several requests for elite status upgrades and free flights. In order to get the Airpoints Fairy’s attention for their wish, some members have been getting very creative, like this lovely request to the Airpoints Fairy via YouTube. All in all this is a great way for ANZ to make its Airpoints program top of mind for its members and strenghten the ties with a daily random act of kindness.

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Etihad and Lufthansa launch loyalty apps for the iPhone

There are travel-related iPhone applications (apps) abound, devoted to everything from ticket search and booking (Kayak), airport codes (Airport Codes), airport gates (GateGuru), airplane seating charts (Airline Seat Guide), to flight tracking (FlightTrack), flight delays (Flight Tracker), and aircraft specifications (aeroguide).  

Compared with the above, the list of airline-branded apps remains relatively sparse. British Airways led the way in July 2008 with the first iPhone app launched by an airline. Qantas soon followed suit, while Air Canada became the first North American carrier to launch an application. Other airlines that have launched iPhone-based services include Lufthansa, Swiss, Southwest, Cathay Pacific, DragonAir, Viva Macau, and Air New Zealand. Apps from these airlines mainly provide general travel information, such as timetables, and the ability to change booking details. Some airlines also offer the passengers the ability to check in, or let them check their FFP mileage balance. For a full overview of airline iPhone apps, see this blog by mvolution (in German). Lately, airline applications have been getting more specific, with Virgin Atlantic’s ‘Flying without Fear’ app, and Air New Zealand’s mobile boarding pass app.
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Delta and Continental latest airlines to introduce uber-elite loyalty tier

 
In order to recognize their highest-value customers, several major airlines maintain unpublished programs that operate as ‘top tiers’ to existing frequent-flier plans. These über-elite tiers are often by invitation-only and offer VIP-perks such as personal concierges, exclusive express check-in lines at airports, access to high-end lounges even when the customer flies economy, and personal escorts to help travelers make tight connections. 

Airlines don’t discuss the selection process to get in these programs, and only say that a small number of passenger are invited based upon their annual spending in addition to mileage earned. For example, United Airlines’ 6-year-old Global Services program is granted to no more than 20,000 of United’s estimated 1 million elite Mileage Plus members. Says a United spokesperson: “It’s like the American Express black [invitation-only] Centurion card: We try to keep the mystique.”
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Cathay Pacific’s ‘I Can Fly’ course teaches young people the basics of aviation

Cathay Pacific’s ‘I Can Fly’ program is dedicated to teaching young people between 15 and 18 years old, and who are interested in aviation, the basics of the industry at no cost. ‘I Can Fly’ was launched in 2003 and every other year, several courses are organized, with 3,000 ‘students’ participating to date in Hong Kong. The carrier has just announced the fourth ‘I Can Fly’ series, which will start in February 2010. Hong Kong youth can apply until 25th December of this year, and 100 participants will be selected.

Enrolling in the ‘I Can Fly’ program is by no means a free ride. The course runs for nine weeks, with once-a-week nightly classes, and includes airport visits, one weekend of community service, and workshops with staff from Cathay’s engineering, flight control, marketing and catering departments, as well as pilots and cabin crew. As part of Cathay’s community program, Cathay Pacific staff volunteer their time to the course.
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Jet Airways rewards frequent flyers for Tripadvisor reviews

JetAirways_TripAdvisor_a680x200

Jet Airways and TripAdvisor India have teamed up in a mutual promotion to attract both new members for Jet Airways’ frequent flyer programme and to increase the number of reviews by Indian travellers on TripAdvisor India. TripAdvisor India was launched in September 2008. The promotion lets members of JetPrivilege, the frequent flyer program of Jet Airways, earn basic JPMiles by writing hotel reviews on tripadvisor.in.

The amount of JPMiles frequent flyers can earn depends on the number of hotel reviews written and published on TripAdvisor. Writing 3 to 6 reviews will get them 500 miles, and 7 or more reviews will earn 1000 miles, with a maximum of 4000 JPMiles per year. Five members that post a minimum of 10 reviews per quarter five members stand a chance to win 5000 bonus JPMiles each. Members who post their hotel reviews between December 3, 2009 and December 31, 2009, receive a 20% bonus JPMiles.
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