Do airlines know how to handle social media?

It is a well-known fact for every business, including the airline industry, that social media has become a primary arena for customer engagement, directly driving lead generation through interaction and relevant content sharing. (Evans, 2010) In many cases social media brings benefits for various airlines, it is often used to increase brand awareness and loyalty, to guide the customers throughout each step of their journeys and it can all be done at relatively low costs. However, sometimes airline marketers fail at social media and one single mistake can cause brand damage, if not handled correctly.

Qantas Airways, the flag carrier airline of Australia, must be the most unlucky airline when it comes to social media strategies and their implementations. Right after having to apologize for weight-loss spam messages on Twitter due to their account getting hacked, Qantas faced another fail right away but in this case it was caused by their own social media marketers. While the airline was going through industrial action, which resulted in many flight cancellations worldwide, some marketers decided to go on with their ongoing social media strategy and launched a competition on Twitter, where customers were invited to use ‘quantasluxury’ hashtag and share their suggestions for a dream in-flight experience (Schneider, 2011). This is when the customers saw the opportunity to show off their frustration caused by flight disruptions and, therefore, shared numbers of sarcastic and angry tweets attacking the airline. This resulted into Qantas having to hire extra four full-time social media managers to help take control of the situation and help save the company’s reputation (Schneider, 2011). Qantas social media ‘fails’ show how important it is to strengthen your social media accounts’ security to maximum and how bad timing of a certain campaign can turn everything around and only bring negative effects.

However, if an airline receives complaints or negative comments on social media platforms, it does not mean that everything is lost – the reputation can still be saved, but only if social media marketers take it seriously and act immediately. JetBlue, for example, is known as one of the airlines, which handles online customer complaints in the most professional and effective way by turning them into compliments. JetBlue’s social media team works 24/7 and takes 10 minute response time (on average) and keeping in mind that the airline receives around 2.500 mentions a day only on Twitter, this response rate is definitely impressive and still seems to be hardly achievable for lots of other carriers. (Hong, 2015) But it is not only about the response time. JetBlue’s social media goal is to add value, engage smartly in an organic and natural manner, and most importantly to effectively handle negativity that gets spread on their social media platforms. (Kolowich, 2014) Surprisingly enough, JetBlue, in some of the cases, does not go above and beyond by apologizing to every disappointed passenger, they do not start giving away gifts for everyone complaining about flight delays due to factors that are beyond their control, such as heavy weather conditions. Instead, they keep their customers updated on what to expect, try to keep personal touch and do everything that is in their hands behind-the-scenes: ‘Apologizing to everyone just makes us look apologetically sad and like we may not have a handle on things, when the truth is, we’re doing all we can to get people where they want to go’ (Kolowich, 2014). This approach, according to Laurie Meacham, Manager of Customer Commitment, is the most efficient way to keep customers well informed and make them feel cared for in the case of negative experiences.

Even though social media platforms might seem as the perfect arena for the airline industry to engage with customers and add extra value in the most cost-effective way, it is important to remember that consumer power in this digital age is growing enormously and many things can go wrong just because of one wrong move. Therefore, airlines should be ready to handle every complaint or inappropriateness that occurs on social media quickly and effectively, otherwise it might escalate to a more serious problem.




Evans, D. (2010). Social Media Marketing: The Next Generation of Business Engagement.

Hong, P. (2015, January 7). Linkdex. Retrieved from How Can Breands Turn Consumer Complaints Into Compliments On Social Media?:

Kolowich, L. (2014, July 28). HubSpot. Retrieved from Delighting People in 140 Characters: An Inside Look at JetBlue’s Customer Service Success:

Schneider, K. (2011, November 22). Retrieved from Fail! Qantas red-faced after Twitter campaign backfires:



The transition from knowledge to wisdom in the airlines industry

Having 3.4 billion passengers carried by airlines in 2015, over 300 operating airlines around the world and those numbers rapidly growing, it is undoubtedly crucial for all players in the industry to stay on top of the game and keep increasing their revenue (The World Bank, 2016). In order to reach that it is extremely important to know as much as possible about their loyal and potential customers as well as to use that knowledge efficiently and turn it into a tool which helps to manage the customers in a smart manner, which would benefit the company. But how do you do that?

First of all, it is crucial to know which data you must collect from your customer and which facts about them help the airline best to understand the passenger. This would include all basic information such as name or contact information, which is easily collected during the booking phase and already introduces the customer. Knowing communication channel preferences and communication history enables the airlines to provide the customer with the most relevant information in its most preferred manner without being repetitive or inefficient (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). Categorizing the customers into different segments is another crucial step towards customer knowledge, as well as knowing their previous travel experience with the company, transaction history, meaningful life events, general satisfaction and every single detail that could be possible gained from communication with the specific customer. (Peelen & Beltman, 2013)

All this gathered data combined creates customer knowledge, which, if used properly, can be transformed into wisdom – the utilization of accumulated knowledge. (Wu, 2000) When transformed successfully, the company can highly increase its customers’ satisfaction and possibly drive revenue by creating loyal customers. Delta is one of the airlines that definitely transfers its customer knowledge into wisdom. For example, it uses customer’s data received during booking process, routes flown or credit card spending and creates customer’s demographic profile, which is used for personally tailored promotions. It might sound as a casual strategy of the majority of carriers nowadays, however they took one step further by cooperating with American Express and introducing Delta American Express (DAE) card. If a customer, who has previously travelled with Delta, purchases tickets with other airlines using DAE, Delta takes immediate actions and sends customised promotions to win the customer back. (Sean, 2015) Thus, in case of losing a customer, Delta creates an opportunity to get it back and therefore makes the competition in the industry slightly more intense.

All in all, it is never enough to know who your customers are by simply gathering as much information as possible. It is critically important to be able to transform that knowledge into the companies’ wisdom and only then the data will actually be valuable and beneficial to the company. Also, airlines should not forget that customer’s privacy is of the utmost importance and therefore all data should serve as a tool to create personalized service without making their customers feel as they are being spied on.



Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. 2nd.

Sean, L. (2015, November 22). Digital Innovation and Transformation. Retrieved from Big Data Takes Flight at Delta Airlines:

The World Bank. (2016). Air trasnsport, passengers carried. Retrieved from

Wu, J. (2000, November 22). Information Management. Retrieved from Business Intelligence: The Transition of Data into Wisdom:

Driving customer satisfaction through personalised and real-time service during flight delays

Every frequent traveler has definitely felt frustrated due to flight delays. Some of airline delays happen due to external factors, such as extreme weather conditions or security issues, sometimes crew max out their hours because of a previous delay or scheduling issues. Whatever the reason is, it is crucial for the airlines to take immediate actions to ensure that passengers are well-informed and taken care of personally in order to keep them as satisfied as possible and reduce the chances of losing loyal customers.

In the research, examining critical service break-downs, which was conducted in four different airport in Sweden back in 1989, it was found that delays are the most frequently occurred flight disruptions (Bejou, Edvardsson, & Pakowski, 1996). However, even three-fourths of interviewed passengers, who faced a delay, said that they were passive and did not take any actions to resolve the problems or did not even expect the airlines to do something to lessen the discomfort. Even with low customers’ expectations, Swedish airports were able to deal with critical situations in satisfactory manners as even 80% of interviewees stated that their relation with airlines and airports did not change, 4% strengthened relationship and the remaining, relatively low 16% of the cases resulted in a weakened or broken relationship. (Bejou, Edvardsson, & Pakowski, 1996)

But how can you know what the customer expects from you in case of a delay and what is satisfactory enough in order to maintain the relationship? Cognizant, a leader in travel and hospitality consulting, created a three-phased approach to a personalized disruption-handling, which, if implemented successfully, could help airlines to understand each customer’s behavior and needs in the event of delay.

A Three-Phased Approach, Source: Cognizant

Phase 1: Defining Code Halos. A code halo is all data that an airline has collected from every previous interaction with its customers. This would include age, gender, nationality and ethnicity, travel purpose, activity on social networking, association with airline, smart device usage, previous behavior during flight delay or any other disruption, etc.

Phase 2: Developing Personas. By using previously gathered data, airlines can develop customer personas, which are divided to two clusters – behavior based and reaction-based. Behavior based cluster defines how a customer acts during a delay, whether he seeks for a refund, explanation, compensation, apology or is pleased with anything. Whereas reaction-based cluster is based on post-service-recovery reactions of customers and they could be applauders, neutrals or skeptics. In order to develop accurate personas, these to clusters should be combined and mixed together.

Phase 3: Developing Insights & Executing Operational Rollout. After creating personas that clarify how and where customers want to be engaged during delays, airlines are ready to provide customers with personalized treatment, keeping in mind that customer data has to be constantly updated and that behavior is highly dependent on situations, therefore each treatment will most probably have its own variations.

LATAM Airlines Brazil, in cooperation with Amadeus, already implemented a mobile solution with a similar approach, which reduces customers’ frustration during flight disruptions, including delays. They developed the Amadeus Personal Disruption Companion, which allows passengers to get all information about the delay in one single tap on a smart device. (Amadeus, Amadeus, 2014) It is done by analyzing who is the traveler, when and where he is travelling and what his preferences are based on existing data. This solution offers re-accommodation options, allows to re-book the trip, transfer the luggage and manages all disruption process from beginning to end. (Amadeus, Amadeus, 2014) Not only does this innovation help to manage travelers personally and in real-time, but it also improves loyalty, delivers a brand experience and possibly lowers airline’s costs related to disruptions.

Even though personalized customer engagement in airlines industry might still seem to be hardly achievable, there are more and more different approaches being developed by airlines and airports, which will help them to drive customer satisfaction, increase brand loyalty and better manage disruption costs.



Amadeus. (2014, 11 25). Amadeus. Retrieved from Amadeus unveils industry-first solution allowing airlines to better manage delayed and cancelled flights:

Amadeus. (2014, December 4). Amadeus. Retrieved from Industry-first solution helps airlines better manage delayed and canceled flights:

Bardhan, S., Ghosh, S., & Gupta, V. (2015). How Airlines Can Deliver a Personalized Customer Experience During Operational Disruptions.

Bejou, D., Edvardsson, B., & Pakowski, J. P. (1996). A Critical Incident Approach to Examining the Effects of Service Failures on Customer Relationships: The Case of Swedish and U.S. Airlines.

Phocuswright. (2014, 11 12). Amadeus – 2014 Finalist – Established Category – Phocuwright’s Travel Innovation Summit. Retrieved from

Understanding the importance of social media presence within the airline industry

As social media usage keeps rapidly growing worldwide, many businesses are trying to adapt various platforms to market their products online as well as to reach out to their existing and potential customers and engage with them better by offering a more innovative communication tool. Airlines, in this case, are not an exception as most of them try to create a strong presence on social media platforms to strengthen their relationship with customers and add extra to their experience. This strategy, if implemented successfully, provides today’s customers with exactly what they are looking for – hyper-relevant communications that speak to them as individuals and speedy guidance throughout each stage of the customer life cycle. (Marketo, 2015)

Social media allows businesses to be present worldwide and reach potential customers across the globe, making them more accessible to everyone. In case of Latvian airline airBaltic, social media benefitted the company greatly when the country was hit hard by the financial and economic crisis. Financial struggles triggered a dramatic decline in the number of Latvian customers, thus the company had to strengthen their online presence in order to reach customers outside of Latvia and this ended up in their online presence being larger than in the real world. (Nigam, 2014)

It is know that when it comes to building relationships between businesses and customers, trust is an essential element for keeping customers satisfied and, of course, for the success of a business. Consumers receiving messages and gaining information on social media platforms tend to trust them more than the messages transmitted through official media and advertising campaigns due to more personalised content (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). Airline customers nowadays demand transparency, authenticity and honesty from their suppliers and Southwest Airlines, for example, are rather successful in that by maintaining transparency in its content on various social media channels and being real and personal in conversations with customers. (Boone & Kurtz, 2015) Besides that, consumers are more and more likely to see the value in the interaction and the experience, not in the product itself. (Peelen & Beltman, 2013) Airlines can do it all by making use of social media, which not only allows the airline to quickly provide its customers with answers they are looking for, but it can also reduce the cost of operating other communication platforms. (Nigam, 2014)

Even though social media channels seem to be the perfect platform to engage with your customers actively and maintain the relationship, airlines should not completely shift to online communication yet, as elderly consumers are known to be less active or even not familiar with social media or internet in general. Targeting a wide range of customer ages, airlines must keep the balance between online and offline customer engagement tools in order to maximise customer reach and ensure customer satisfaction.



Boone, L., & Kurtz, D. (2015). Contemporary Marketing (16 ed.).

Marketo. (2015). The 5 Principles of Engagement Marketing. Retrieved September 19, 2016, from

Nigam, S. (2014). Airlines in Social Media. Retrieved from

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