SAS lets Facebook fans decide its next summer route

The airline industry is busy experimenting with various social media initiatives that aim to use the power of the crowd. Airlines such as Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and British Airways have been tapping into the creativity of the general public to crowdsource products as diverse as designs of loyalty cards, eyemasks, and catering items such as cocktails, snacks and desserts. Meanwhile, Virgin America and Southwest, among others, have recently held ‘crowd clout’ campaigns with group buying site Groupon, offering consumers a deal when enough buyers would commit to the offer.

SAS ‘Sommerflyet’
Scandinavian Airlines’ (SAS) ‘Sommerflyet’ (‘summer plane’) campaign has tapped into ‘the wisdom of crowds’ to determine its next destination. The airline recently announced it would start 21 new leisure destinations for its summer 2012 schedule and reserved one of its aircraft next summer in order to let its more than 110,000 Facebook fans choose a 22nd destination.

Says Christian Kamhaug, Head of Social Media at SAS, “Every summer SAS reduces capacity on its domestic networks in Scandinavia. These are mainly business-driven, high-frequency routes, and as we all have 4 to 5 weeks of vacation here in Scandinavia, business traffic grinds to a halt in June and July. SAS used to park planes and send crews on vacation, but in the last couple of years costs have been cut by 23 percent and now it’s more profitable to operate these planes, even to low-yield  leisure routes.” […] “More than 110 000 people follow Scandinavian Airlines on Facebook and we think it is great to let our most dedicated fans influence our product in this way.”

SAS’ Facebook fans could submit their choice of destination with Oslo as point of departure, and the top 10 suggestions were then be included in a poll on Facebook with the winning route to be included in SAS’ summer 2012 network. A flight time of maximum five hours was the only limitation, meaning that most of mainland-Europe, the Greek Isles and Cyprus were within flying range. More than 800 entries and 180 different suggestions for destinations (of which 160 are possible operationally) have been submitted and ‘fans’ could vote for the top destinations until November 7th.

The clear winner of the Sommerflyet contest has been Alanya, a popular sun destination on the south coast of Turkey, which received more than 1,900 votes out of the total of 5,000. SAS will fly to Alanya twice weekly in July and August 2012, and the winner of the Sommerflyet competition (a participant who suggested the winning destination and who had the best motivation for the summer route) will receive tickets for the inaugural flight.

KLM Fly2Miami
Another initiative that shows the ‘crowd power’ of social media is KLM’s Fly2Miami. In October 2010 Dutch DJ Sied van Riel and movie maker Wilco Jung asked KLM via Twitter why they didn’t schedule a direct flight from Amsterdam to Miami specifically for people attending the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, one of the most important festivals for the dance scene. Although KLM was initially planning to start operating direct flights to Miami on 28 March 2011, the airline made a bet with the two influential members of the dance scene that it would bring the inaugural flight date forward if they could get 351 seats reserved within six days. Exceeding everyone’s expectations, the flight was fully booked within 48 hours and on 21 March 2011 KLM carried out the extra one-time flight (video about the campaign here).

The intention economy
The initiatives by SAS and KLM are good examples of what has been dubbed the ‘Intention Economy’: Letting consumers make their interest or even buying intentions known before they purchase. Another good example is Eventful, which not only enables users to find and post local events anywhere in the world, but also lets them demand events and performances in their town and spread the word in order to persuade well-known artists to change their touring schedule.


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