Virtual communities in the airline industry

Companies use brand communities so that they can establish long lasting relationships with their customers and are, as a result, of significant importance to their online strategies. Within these brand communities, companies can interact with their customers and use it as a platform to co-create “products and experiences” and so the business can turn their customers into partners. Other benefits of a virtual brand community are: higher customer loyalty, lower product development costs and a reduction in marketing costs. (Martinez-López, Anaya-Sánchez, Aguilar-Illescas & Molinillo, 2016)

Martinez-López, et al. (2016) write that there are 3 types of values in a virtual community that exist simultaneously. The first is ‘intellectual value’, which arises from the company and its customers co-creating something. The second is ‘social value’ and is created through the platform on which the community is located. This value can lead to strong social bonds between the company and its customers but also between the customers themselves, which can lead to a high devotion and the number of loyal users. The last value is ‘cultural value’ and is produced by the community’s culture and self-regulation. (Martinez-López, et al., 2016)

A brand community succeeds or fails through its ‘specific value or the linking value that it provides to its members’. The latter comes from the collaboration between the company and the customers and have a direct relation to the ‘value that the brand and its product have in creating, developing and maintaining the interpersonal relationships among customers.’ (Martinez-López, et al., 2016)

Finnair’s and Helsinki Airport have teamed up and invited their customers to share their ideas on comfortable traveling since 2010. The aim of the programme is to co-create a better traveling experience for their customers through the customer’s own wants and needs. Each year, Finnair seeks applicants with good, innovative ideas that can enhance the travel experience they provide and invite them to the office in Helsinki to brainstorm together on new ideas. One of the ideas that has been put into practise is the second hand book-swap that was introduced to Helsinki airport. (Loukas, 2013)

Kollau (2013) gives another example of airlines teaming up with their customers and co-creating new products and services. While Finnair has its quality hunters program, which has been described in the previous paragraph, KLM has a program where they ask their Facebook fans to contribute their ideas on KLM’s products and services as well as their ideas on how to improve them. Moreover, Scandinavian Airlines has its own online community which enables customers to post new ideas on products and services and other customers are asked to add their thoughts and feeling to these ideas. (Kollau, 2013)

Delta even added a program to be used while making use of the airline’s services, called ‘Ideas in Flight’. In this program, the airline offers the customer ‘thought-starting’ TEDTalks with the idea to inspire their customers and can fill in the potential ideas they have on a dedicated Facebook page. (Kollau, 2013)

Author: Yannick Jongejan

Kollau, R. (2013, June 08). Passengers on Delta’s ‘Beta Plane’ can submit their ideas via Wi-Fi [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Loukas, N. (2013, October 24). Finnair and Helsinki Airport invite ‘Quality Hunters’ to co-create new products [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Martínez-López, F. J., Anaya-Sánchez, R., Aguilar-Illescas, R., & Molinillo, S. (2016). Value Creation in Virtual Brand Communities. In Online Brand Communities (pp. 189-205). Springer International Publishing.


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