4 steps in the social media arena that engage the customer in the airline industry.


Social Media has rapidly changed the Internet and transformed it into a “place where people interact, create and share experiences”. The arena gives organizations the opportunity to connect and build a relationship with the clients, from generating brand awareness to get loyal customers.

Within the airline industry, social media is used as a platform for brand development and product marketing. With this, improving customer services and passenger experiences. For example, through updating and responding to customer’s feedback, or direct communication via a chat service.

According to Peelen and Beltman, there are four steps to customer engagement in the social arena. These start with mapping out those customers who matter most to the company, and who in the end will produce the most profit. First of all, it is important to observe how clients talk about you. This can be done via specific invitations to the customer database, announce initiatives on packaging and by trying to be present where the clients are.

Secondly, it is necessary to engage with the visitors to let them participate. An example is shown by KLM who currently introduced the partnership with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to answer the customer questions. If a client asks a question through the chat service, the agents gets a proposed answer through AI. The program is trained to answer 60.000 KLM answers and questions. The provided answer will be checked by the agent and he/she decides whether it’s the right answer to question. If not, the agent can adjust it and send it across the appropriate media channel. Based on what the agent decides, the system learns and gets smarter in real time. (Elbers, 2016)

The third step is optimization, the community should be kept alive and know that the company is engaging with the customers by representing their brand image. This could be done via news updates, engaging questions, interesting content, etcetera. In this step the airline company represents their image, therefore it is important that it knows the audience. If a client replies in a formal way, the agent should respond in the same way. On the contrary, if a client asks a question in an informal way the agent should interact with them this same way.

For instance, in 2013 AirAsia celebrated 2 million likes by offering free seats to their Facebook followers. The company of AirAsia was one of the first airlines to embrace social media marketing. Furthermore, they post contests to engagement with the hashtag LoveIsInTheAir, asking visitors for photos with their loved ones. This contest give customers a chance to win free seats.  (Tint, 2014)

Finally, an airline company should measure the results from the previous steps and discuss how these engagement platforms could improve the relationships with the clients, how it supports product launches and finally how it increases the market shares and conversion rate. A perfect tool to measure the results is by using Google Analytics. The outcomes of different years should be compared to each other and based on these outcomes goals must be set for the future.

It is important for the airline industry to know how the social media arena is used and which are the most relevant channels for their target market. The four steps of Peelen et all, should be used by the airline industry to effectively use the different social media tools with the finally aim to measure the results. These results will help the industry to give an inside on the current situation and indicate whether or not changes need to be made. (Peelen, 2013)

Customer engagement is growing within the tourism industry, if an airline does not implement the right social media strategy to attract its customers the competitor will always be one step ahead of them.

Author: Jade van Huisseling

Elbers L. (September 30, 2016) Travelnieuws: KLM gaat een stapje verder in AI Customer service via social. Retrieved on October 5, 2016. Retrieved from  http://www.travelnext.nl/travelnieuws-klm-gaat-stapje-ai-customer-service-social.html

Peelen and Beltman (2013) Second Edition. Customer Relationship Management, Pearson, 2013

Tint (May 11, 2014) 3 Brands That Use Social Media Service to Boost Happiness. Retrieved on October 3, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.tintup.com/blog/3-brands-that-use-social-media-in-customer-service-to-boost-happiness/


How segmentation can increase Cross-selling services within the airline industry.

Traveler experiences are far less linear than going from A to B. The key for airlines is to show opportunities by making every service personalized and within the traveler’s context. Cross-selling provides current customers with additional services including car rental bookings, travel insurances, wifi on-board and many more. Successful cross selling requires segmentation, relevancy and timing consideration. (Ali, 2016) 

48% of the airline travelers are sometimes or often interested in upgrades or additional services. Only 19% of the travelers mention to be never interested. Besides, no traveler mentioned to be always interested. This means that many customers are interested in the additional services and products. But to increase these figures it is important that the service is relevant to a particular client. If this is not the case, there is a chance of feeling annoyed and this could have a bad influence on the airline’s reputation To avoid this, it is important that airlines make use of segmentation, to categories their customers in order to provide the relevant data for a specific target. (CTICO, 2013)

As an example of Cross selling, Austrian Airlines introduced the Austrian Red Cab service, consisting of eight vehicles presented with the name and logo. The vehicle transfer Austrian passengers between Vienna and the Airport. As an extra service, the passengers receive a free daily newspaper, the Austrian’s in-flight magazines Skylines and Succeed and a bottle of water. The promotion of the service is done on its website, in the booking confirmation email, and in their magazine and entertainment program. (Kallau, 2011)

In order to use the segmentation section in a proper way, PhoCusWright (n.d.) defines three steps to make sure cross-sell offers personal and drive bookings for the airline industry. First of all it is important to define the relavancy and review the metrics, by looking for opportunities to display specific deals at the right time, to a specific target group based on their behaviour. After defining this metric, it is important to look for new ways to display upsells and cross-sells by creating innovative ways to engage visitors with additional offers. An example in the airline industry is displaying upgrade options during seat bookings. This will result an effective way to lead more visitors to the offer with the aim to drive additional value.

Finally, it is important to not cross-sell everyone. For this step the target groups need to be classified. (PhoCusWright, n.d.) Clients that have booked there flight revealed many attributes and well-defined travel plans. Difining the clients segments helps airlines to cross sell additional products and services. For instance, a family flying to Costa Rica for a 8 day trip, is likely to respond to car rental offers while a couple to Paris might be interested in theater tickets. (Shebalov, n.d.)

Cross-selling is an essential fee based service within the airline industry to drive profits. Segmentation analysis of the customer profile help to offer the right services and products to the right customers. Airlines need to know what matters and offer better, easier and personalized services. Those that only see the customer engagement as the arrival and departure might lose their clients to those airlines that do have an overal view of their customer’s journey.
Author: Jade van Huisseling

Ali R (April 21, 2014) Low Cost Airlines aren’t getting much upselling hotels. Retrieved on September 29, 2016. Retrieved from https://skift.com/2014/04/21/low-cost-airlines-arent-getting-much-traction-upselling-hotels/

CTICO (June 12, 2013) UpSelling & Cross-Selling  in the Travel Industry. Retrieved on September 28, 2016. Retrieved from http://cticoww.com/upselling-cross-selling-in-the-travel-industry-infographic-report/

Kollau R. (April 11, 2011) Austrian Airlines starts its own branded airport taxi service. Retrieved on September 28, 2016. Retrieved from  http://www.airlinetrends.com/2011/04/09/austrian-redcab/

Peelen and Beltman (2013) Second Edition. Customer Relationship Management, Pearson, 2013

PhoCusWright (n.d.) The Travel Guide To Upselling and Cross-Selling Retrieved on September 28, 2016. Retrieved from http://cticoww.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/crosssell-upsell-travel.png

Shebalov S. (n.d.) Customer Segmentation. Retrieved on September 29, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.ascendforairlines.com/2014-issue-no-4/customer-segmentation

Airline industries: being there when it really matters.


Whether it is a birthday, wedding, anniversary or mother’s day, during these special days every client is happy with a little extra. It happens more often that airlines intensify a relationship with their guests by playing a role during important life events. Lifetime memories satisfy both the customer and the airline with the aim to create loyal customers, produce word of mouth advertising and create key moments for acquisition.

Life events offer opportunities for businesses to provide value, depending on the value proposition. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale by Holmes and Rahe (1967) assesses the impact that life events have on the psychosocial balance of individuals, explaining changes in behavior, attitude and conviction on customers. Being there for the customer, requires airlines to increase the value of the customer base. They have to understand the customer’s feelings, thoughts and actions, which can be relevant to the possible provided value. As mentioned by Peelen (2013): “the customer is in an active mode, having to make choices that might otherwise be putt off.”

A perfect example of understanding the customer’s feelings, thought and actions is shown by Southwest Airlines, that throw a surprise wedding shower in Baltimore. (Southwest Airlines, 2016) A couple from the US has been flying with Southwest Airlines over the last few years to see each other. While Andy Mcllvaine was lugging three bottles of champagne to propose his girlfriend, he talked to some SouthWest employees. Impressed by his story, they gave him a hundred dollar voucher. But they did not stop here. Afterwards, Southwest gathered over a hundred passengers, staff members from Southwest and other airlines with 500 roses, signs and champagne, throwing out a wedding shower. (Graaf, 2015)

Any and his wife are identified by the relationship policy of Peelen as being in the maturity phase. In this phase, the supplier encounters its most profitable and loyal customers. The level of spending is high and the chance of ending the relationship is low. After the wedding shower, Any respects the company and is likely to book a flight with them in the future. (Peelen, 2013)

Besides a wedding, many companies offer special discounts and bonuses during a birthday. As an example, China Airlines’s Dynasty Flyer Program gives members a 5% discount when booking tickets during their birthday month. Furthermore, KLM/Air France’s Flying Blue offers 1,000 bonus miles if you travel within 100 days of your birthday. In the end, nothing can compete with Lufthansa’s benefits, offering a free upgrade or complimentary breakfast during the entire stay on Swissôtel bookings. Besides, this offer is valid for an entire year. (Berman, 2015)

Some effort causes customers to be satisfied. An example is given by the Returntocustomer (n.d.) about a parent who was flying with her four children, when a flight attendant gave her a very own trash bag to help them out. In the interview, the parent states: “this was a great help, the flight attendant anticipated our needs, my flight was a little less stressful and Southwest had a cleaner plane. Everybody won.” (Returntocustomer, n.d.) By anticipating the customer’s need the airline reduces customer service demand later.

Life events are unique possibilities for the Airline industry to prove value to its guests. With the increasing demand for customer engagement, businesses are challenged to offer a little extra to its customers. These extras cause customers to be satisfied and loyal, and with the final aim to produce word of mouth advertising. Companies should react upon life events now, before their competitors do.

Author: Jade van Huisseling

Berman M. (August 27, 2015). Birthday Benefits from Airline and Hotel Loyalty Programs. Retrieved on September 20, 2016. Retrieved from http://thepointsguy.com/2015/08/birthday-benefits/

Graaf, M. (April 2, 2015) Love is in the air! Southwest Airlines throw wedding shower at airport for long-distance couple who spend the relationship flying to see each other. Retrieved on September 20, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3023423/Love-air-Southwest-Airlines-throw-wedding-shower-airport-long-distance-couple-spend-relationship-flying-eachother.html

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management(Second ed.). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Returntocustomer (n.d.) How to anticipate customer needs. Retrieved on September 20, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.returncustomer.com/how-to-anticipate-customer-needs/

Southwest Airlines (March 14, 2016) Southwest Airlines throws a surprise wedding shower in Baltimore! Retrieved on September 20, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkIkTWXg8Xc


Employee engagement: the key to customer satisfaction.

“Every communication and customer interaction should be fully leveraged, optimized and treated as an opportunity to create engaged customers.” (Christopher, 2010) Nowadays, only 29% of the employees in the US are motivated and energized. Imagine what happens with the reminding workforce. Within the airline industry, employee perception is the primary source to customer satisfaction and increasing the customer loyalty.

A long distance flight is not the most comfortable way to spend your day, especially if the staff does not put effort in improving this particular service. This will most likely lead to customer dissatisfaction. As a surprise, this often occurs in the airline industry. As mentioned by Stone (n.d.), only 29% of the employees in the US are motivated and energized. This remarkable low percentage highlights the 54% of employees who are not engaged, and who are defined by Stone as: “they are almost sleepwalking through their workday and merely putting in time.” The other 17% are actively disengaged and act out their unhappiness towards its guests. A company’s brand, together with the internal culture are key elements within the total engagement model. As mentioned by Christopher (2010) : “an engaged employee is more productive, more committed to settling disputes peacefully and is more loyal to the company in general.”

“Surprise, Surprise”; what is a better way to wait inlinein line than getting surprised by a KLM employee? In 2010, KLM launched a new campaign, where part of the KLM team was in charge of identifying those passengers who are waiting inlinein line by researching their social profile. Accordingly, flight attendants would greet their guests by name and give them a personalized gift. A high percentage of guests published about this unique and personal experience with KLM. The campaign earned 1,000,000 impressions on Twitter, by showing the world their customer intimacy. (Peveto, 2011)

Hiring personnel who know the value of a laugh, Southwest Airlines increased their brand knowledge based on in-flight entertainment provided by their fun-loving attendants. This is where customer intimacy comes in, the employees of Southwest Airlines understand their customers. They understand that economical flights are not pleasant. Besides, the Airline decided to strip out operational costs by eliminating meals, interline baggage transfers and seat assignments. In this way, those clients who previously could not afford the flight ticket are now able to fly for a fair price. (Chew, 2014)

The theory of Treacy and Wiersema identifies both value disciplines, customer intimacy and operational excellence, as values that are necessary with a business strategy. (Peelen, 2013)

The business world needs motivated staff in order to create positive customer experiences. While some airlines are still struggling with customer intimacy, this value discipline has become the main focus for others. Don’t wait too long, give your guests a little extra and let them feel special.

Author: Jade van Huisseling



Chew. C (January 30, 2014) In Persuit of Customer Intimacy and Operational Excellence. Retrieved on September 15, 2016. Retrieved from https://miscmagazine.com/in-pursuit-of-customer-intimacy-and-operational-excellence/

Christopher Roberts Frank Alpert, (2010),”Total customer engagement: designing and aligning key strategic elements to achieve growth”, Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 19 Iss 3 pp. 198 – 209. Retrieved on September 15, 2016. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/10610421011046175

Stone. G (n.d.) Employee engagement the challenge for business aviation. Retrieved on September 2015. Retrieved from http://www.graystoneadvisors.com/employee-engagement-the-challenge-for-business-aviatio

Peelen Ed. (2013) Customer relationship management. Volume Retrieved on September 14, 2016.

Peveto A (January 11, 2011) KLM Suprise: How a Little Research Earned 1,000,000 Impressions on Twitter. Retrieved on September 14, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.digett.com/2011/01/11/klm-surprise-how-little-research-earned-1000000-impressions-twitter