SOCIAL MEDIA

Emirates, Cathay, Air New Zealand latest airlines to ‘crowdsource’ new products

Earlier this year we reported how airlines such as KLM and  Virgin Atlantic are using the Internet to co-create products with the general public. Recent examples from airlines such as Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand, who are introducing crowdsourced products such as loyalty card designs, inflight cocktails, snacks, desserts and eyemasks, show that ‘open innovation’ is here to stay. 

Emirates ‘Skywards Future Artist Programme’
In August 2010, Emirates launched the first edition of its ‘Our Future Artists’ competition, asking artist around the world to submit their artwork for a chance to be featured on the 2011 membership cards of the airline’s frequent flyer programme, Skywards. Entries needed to reflect and interpret the mood of each of the three membership levels of the Skywards program: ‘Luxurious, elite and precious’ for the Gold tier, ‘sophistication, intelligence and richness’ for the Silver tier and ‘bold, visionary and modern’ for the Blue level. All styles and sizes of art, including sculpture, photography and paintings could be submitted. 

Out of more than 3,500 entries, a panel of industry professionals and experts created a shortlist of 4 entries for each brief, with the winning designs voted for by Skywards members. The three winning artists were Nedim Kufi (Netherlands) for the Gold card, a 3-D computer-generated image of bronze nuggets, Amir Vafaei’s (Iran) silver geometric design motif of Turkoman rugs for the Silver card, and Kambiz Sabri (Iran) was the winner for the Blue card design, a sculpture of light and transparency featuring enlarged rain drops. The winners also receive USD5,000 and will be flown to Dubai where their portfolio will be displayed at the Art Dubai fair in March 2011. Distribution of more than 5 million cards with the new design to Skyward members will begin in January 2011. 
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Lufthansa rewards Foursquare users for virtual check-ins at Munich’s Oktoberfest

We recently covered the first airlines in Asia-Pacific (Air New Zealand) and the U.S. (Virgin America) that are using the fast growing location-based social networks Foursquare (3 million users) and Loopt (4 million) to connect with consumers. In Europe, Lufthansa has just become the first airline to partner with Foursquare for a geo-social marketing campaign based around the annual Oktoberfest in Munich, which takes place from September 19 to October 4, 2010. 

An important status element of Foursquare are ‘badges’, which are awarded to Foursquare members that ‘check in’ frequently with their cellphone at the same location. 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. 

Foursquare users who check in to three Lufthansa-approved venues at Oktoberfest will receive the special Oktoberfest badge. Unlocking the badge entitles them to a EUR20 flight voucher good for a future Lufthansa flight. A redemption code will be emailed after unlocking the badge. A micro-site details how to download Foursquare’s app and how to earn the flight voucher. It also includes tips on how to visit beer tents around Munich’s annual festival. Read full article »

Virgin America uses location-based social network Loopt to promote new routes

We recently reported how airlines, airports and hotels are experimenting with the latest social media phenomenon, geo-social networks such as Foursquare. For example, Air New Zealand rewards Foursquare ‘mayors’ of the 12 regional airports in its network with free access to its lounge. 

Virgin America recently used location-based rewards network Loopt Star to draw attention to its new routes to Mexico. On 1 January 2011, the airline will start non-stop flights from San Francisco (SFO) to Cabo and from Los Angeles (LAX) to Cancun. In addition to a three-day fare sale, Virgin America on 31 August offered people who used Loopt Star to virtually check in at SFO and LAX airports and two taco trucks in LA and San Francisco, two tickets to Mexico for the price of one, while supplies last. The taco trucks also offered two-for-one tacos for USD1. 

To promote the offer both brands notified their Twitter followers and Facebook ‘likers’ via posts and tweets and generated an enormous buzz (video here). “By 11 a.m., we had hundreds of people already in line. We had a bride-to-be who was going to honeymoon in Cancun who came down to check in. We had whole groups of college-aged folks spilling out of minivans saying, ‘We all heard about this and we’re going to get our tickets for Spring Break [2011],'” said Alice Lankester, VP of marketing for Virgin America. In San Francisco, 1,300 people checked in, and 80 percent of those people have already bought tickets on Virgin America for flights. According to the airline, the Loopt promotion helped make it the fifth highest sales day in its history. Loopt has more than four million users, despite the fact that it is covered far less often than the smaller Foursquare. Read full article »

Finnair launches public search for mystery flyers

Finnair’s goal under its new Vision 2020 plan, announced in May 2010, is to be recognized as the number-one airline in the Nordic countries and to be among the three largest carriers in terms of transit traffic between Asia and Europe. In terms of the travel experience, Finnair says it wants to be the airline of choice of the quality- and environmentally-conscious passenger, and that it is looking to answer customer needs and expectations with “open-minded and innovative solutions”. 

In this spirit, Finnair has just launched a public search for four ‘Quality Hunters’, whose task will be to travel to cities in Europe, Asia and the US throughout October and November, assessing flights, airports and destinations. As independent advisors to Finnair, they are expected to communicate their impartial views and recommendations to the company on a regular basis throughout the two-month period.

In addition, the Quality Hunters will share their ‘mystery flyer’ experiences with the public through frequent updates on their personal blog on the Rethink Quality website. At the end of the two months, followers can vote for the Top Quality Hunter. In return, those who vote or comment on the blogs have the chance to win intercontinental flights for two between Europe and Asia with Finnair. Aspiring Quality Hunters can submit their applications online until 26 September 2010 and must be available for travel from 4 October on. 
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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 »

Delta first airline to sell tickets on Facebook

Delta Air Lines has become the first airline to allow Facebook users in the U.S. to buy flight tickets without having to leave the social network. Dubbed ‘Ticket Window’, users can select different search criteria and then view results from within the application, including route options, aircraft type, times and inclusive prices. Once a fare is selected the user can enter the usual passenger and payment details and the booking is complete. Facebook members can also share their travel plans with friends on the social network. Delta says future releases will contain more social elements, such as coordinating group travel more easily. 

Delta says it plans to expand the Ticket Window functionality to other sites, including online banner ads to allow full booking capabilities within the airline’s advertisements. Says Bob Kupbens, Delta’s vice president eCommerce, “Our customers are spending more time online and are looking for new ways to connect with us. “We’re now bringing Delta to our customers rather than the other way around.”
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Gatwick Airport wants travelers to tweet their feedback while at the airport

London Gatwick Airport is actively encouraging travelers at the airport to post complaints, feedback, and suggestions in 140 characters or less via Twitter. As part of a pilot programme, information screens in the check-in areas display the following message – “Are you on Twitter? Get in touch with us @gatwick_airport and let us know about your experience at Gatwick today”.

With this new initiative Gatwick Airport has basically set up a customer service system that addresses traveler’s needs in real time. Gatwick has been active on Twitter since August 2010, and often responds to comments, but according to the airport, “this now takes it one step further by actually integrating social media into the physical space of the airport”. Twitter replies from staff are currently only offered during office hours, as most other airports and airlines do. The plan however is to extend the Twitter service to run 24 hours a day. Read full article »

Austrian Air tours New York with ‘cafe-to-go’ Twitter truck, serving free coffee

Austrian Airlines is one of the smaller national carriers in Europe, serving just 10 intercontinental destinations from its hub in Vienna. The Lufthansa-owned carrier flies directly to New York and Washington D.C from the Austrian capital. To promote the airline in these two cities, Austrian Air just held a ‘Taste of Europe’ campaign, which highlighted the café and coffee heritage of Vienna. 

From June 1st to June 10th (2010), an Austrian Airlines ‘Café-to-Go’ truck toured the steets of New York City, serving free coffee. Taking a cue from popular food trucks such as Kogi BBQ and Coolhaus in Los Angeles, locations were announced via Twitter. Viennese coffee classics like Wiener Mélange, Einspanner and Kleiner Brauner were prepared in the truck and served to people passing by. Vienna is known for its traditional coffee-houses and Austrian Air also has a ‘Viennese coffee house’ service onboard its flights. Read full article »

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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JetBlue creates a buzz with Twitter-driven ticket giveaway

Following the success of its Twitter ticket giveaway in New York City in March (2010), JetBlue just held a similar event in Boston. Celebrating its 10th anniversary the carrier tweeted several simple assingments during the day, together with the physical location of the JetBlue team somewhere in the city. People following the airline on Twitter that were first to show up after each tweet were given a free ticket.

In New York JetBlue asked people to bring them birthday cards on Broadway and Dey Street in the Financial District. After announcing it on Twitter, the airline said the first person arrived less than three minutes after the tweet. For round two, it asked people to wear something blue and bring an airplane-related item to University Place and 11th Street near Union Square. In Boston people had to bring a photo of 10 standard office supplies amongst other assignments. This video nicely captures the spirit on the street. In total JetBlue gave away 1,000 free tickets in New York and 600 in Boston.
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Airlines team up with the general public to ‘fly their ideas’

Since airlinetrends.com is all about product and service innovation in the airline industry, what better topic is there than how airlines and airports are teaming up with the general public in order to generate ideas for new products and services. Air New Zealand, KLM, Virgin Atlantic and Airbus all recently launched co-creation/crowdsourcing/customer-made intitiatives. 

Air New Zealand ‘Aviation Design Academy’
Air New Zealand’s ‘Aviation Design Academy’ is asking the public to add a few finishing touches to the offerings in the airline’s all-new cabin. Participants can sign-up to create a mid-flight snack for travelers in Economy; a signature cocktail for Premium Economy customers; or a stylish eye mask for Business Class passengers, and ANZ will turn the winning ideas into actual products. The winner for each category will also win two free tickets on the inaugural flight of ANZ’s new B777-300 aircraft from Auckland to London in April 2011. The competition is open to people across the world, and submissions have to be in before 26 April 2010. 
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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.

Jet Airways rewards frequent flyers for Tripadvisor reviews

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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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Virgin Atlantic asks its Facebook fans for feedback on inflight Internet

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Lufthansa recently announced that it will reintroduce its ‘FlyNet’ broadband Internet on long-haul flights. Emirates also revealed it is studying the business case for Ku-based broadband Internet. Currently, the airline offers AeroMobile’s basic cellphone connectivity on about 60 aircraft. Virgin Atlantic is possibly the next long-haul airline to offer inflight Internet. The airline will renew its fleet between 2011 and 2013 with the arrival of several A330, A340 and B787 aircraft, and is currently working on the introduction of new products and services.

In what is a first for the airline, Virgin Atlantic used social network site Facebook to get feedback on what they would like to see in terms of inflight connectivity on the new aircraft. Last week, it asked its 21,000+ Facebook fans a few questions about their connectivity desires. Facebook users could respond to questions like “What are your wireless Inflight Entertainment expectations for Virgin Atlantic?”, and “How would you prefer to pay for the usage of Internet onboard?”.
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The Amateur-Expert Traveller

Amadeus has just released a new consumer trends report, called ‘The Amateur-Expert Traveller’. According to the study, today’s travellers are more knowledgeable, more adventurous and more likely to live in an emerging economy than ever before. The report is the latest in the series of trend reports by Amadeus, which also include ‘The Austere Traveller’ and ‘Future Travel Tribes 2020’.

The Internet is the major force behind the emergence of the ‘Amateur-Expert Traveller’, making the travel market much  more transparent by putting detailed information at the fingertips of the average traveller. Empowered by the likes of TripAdvisor, Zoover, SeatGuru, Bing Travel and TripWolf, knowledgeable travellers often know more what to expect about their flight, accomodation and destination than most travel, airline or hotel agents. They are also more demanding as their expectations of service have diverged: Today, travellers either expect a totally touchless online self-service experience, or they expect a very high level of personalised service.
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