Over the past few years, there has been a silent revolution taking place. The humble cellular mobile telephone has developed from an unsophisticated brick just about capable of making telephone calls, into a slender touch-screen smart device able to send video by email, and hook up to the internet from just about anywhere!
In parallel with the advancement of the mobile phone is the explosion into public consciousness of the benefits of social networking websites such as Facebook and Linkedin.
Individually these are both very powerful drivers of social change, but combined they are truly awesome in their ability to change our lives – hopefully for the better.
The Airline industry has been quick to identify the potential to engage with their customers using these new technologies. One of the earliest initiatives, now commonplace, is self service check in, either from a home or office PC, or performed using a smart phone.
Ownership of smart phones has dramatically increased recently. Results from the 2011 SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self Service Survey shows that the use of such ‘phones by travellers has doubled to 54%. Of those users, 74% are business and first class travellers.
Imaginative high-tech marketing can help tie customers very effectively to an airline.
KLM has been very creative in the way that it has embraced smart phone technology.
According to a report published by Brand eBiz, KLM recently launched an I-Phone application quirkily called “Shake and Travel” The user either inputs the preferred choices, and shakes the phone, and the application cleverly suggests a destination together with the ticket prices and flight information. A simple push of a button will enable the user to book the selected flight on line.
The more adventurous can simply shake the phone and take pot luck on where the phone suggests that they go.
The Dutch Daily News recently reported that KLM have introduced “Social Seating”, whereby passengers visit social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn to select as seat mate who shares a similar disposition and taste as them. This is a truly inspired piece of marketing!
Travolution also reports that KLM provides a Live Flight Tracking application which enables individuals to simply input a flight number and see the position of the aircraft displayed on a world map. Users can also check on flights operated by Air France and Delta Airlines.
In a further attempt to encourage passengers to bond emotionally with them, KLM have launched their “Passport” application, enabling passengers to convert photographs of their experiences into inspiring films.
United Airlines have cleverly chosen to integrate their loyalty programme, Mileage Plus, with the social sites Facebook and Foursquare, and are offering bonus mileage points to travellers who share their locations at airports throughout the United States. The passenger benefits from information about dining offers locally and gets a further fifty point bonus if check in is completed via the social site being used.
Emirates are also busy developing their Facebook application to enable them to emotionally engage with potential customers.
Oman Air is not slow to see the potential – they have just launched Facebook pages in four different languages to enable customers to leave feedback and remain connected.
The smart phone and online connectivity has had a seismic effect on the way in which airlines and airports conduct their business. Singapore International Airlines has withdrawn is self service check in kiosks at Changi Airport due to low usage – a direct consequence of passengers checking in for flights off-airport.
It’s not just the airlines who are embracing these changes. Passenger Terminal Today reports that East Midlands Airport in Nottingham, England is using an animated holographic image of a virtual Terminal Assistant, who reminds travellers of the security requirements for travelling through the airport. This “friendly face” delivers the security message in a very human fashion, and is probably easier than reading the requirements on a video screen.
In another first for an airport, Moscow Airport is reported as launching the world’s first check in that can be accomplished on a video link from the Skype internet telephone service. (Wall Street Journal).
Airline Loyalty programmes have been here for thirty two years in a virtually unchanged manner. However, they are now metamorphosing and being assimilated into a global marketing machine that will change the way that we travel forever.