Airlines on a Digital High

Even though airlines had historically been early adopters of new technologies, they were quite late fully adopting digital media. However especially after the Iceland volcano eruption, paralysing most of Europe’s skies and carriers, major airlines have increasingly adopted social media and updated their digital presence to keep up with younger, higher-income, and more tech-savvy consumers.

It goes however further than that. Through the case compilation below, we see how digital technology can be fully integrated in the entire service spectrum of airlines, from trip planning to the booking process, in flight experience and customer service, certainly applicable to the rest of the travel & tourism industry.

ANA Asks “Is Japan Cool?” to Increase Awareness

All Nippon Airways (ANA) recently launched Is Japan Cool?, showcasing some of Japan’s attractions and elements of its culture for which the country famous.

The “Is Japan Cool?” site introduces current Japanese trends through articles and video clips of people, places, and social phenomena. Sumo, carousel sushi (low-priced sushi served on a circulating conveyor belt), maid cafés and comic book cafés are just a few examples. Visitors to the website will judge if the featured items are “cool” or “not so cool.” The site was designed to spark interest in Japan, deepen understanding, and encourage people to visit.

Number one position is steadily occupied by Japanese hospitality, followed closely by Japanese toilets, hot spring spas and the iconic Mount Fuji. Items can be opened to find out more information and watch the clip on a bigger screen.

The site itself is simple in functionality and easy to use, even though it could have better integrated social functionalities like the Facebook ‘Like’ to rate items, maximizing its visibility through Facebook rather than having all the action constrained within the site.


KLM’s Social Meet & Seat Program

KLM‘s new Meet & Seat program, launched in February, allows passengers to choose their own seatmates based on their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

Passengers with confirmed reservations can indicate what social information they choose to share, and are presented with a seating chart highlighting other passengers with available profiles. Next, they can select a seat next to someone they find interesting and that person will receive a message with their new seatmate’s profile. The service is mostly positioned by the airline for business travelers although available to all passengers.

“For at least 10 years, there has been this question about serendipity and whether you could improve the chances of meeting someone interesting onboard,” Erik Varwijk, a managing director in charge of passenger business at KLM, told The New York Ties. “But the technology just wasn’t available. Now it is”.

The original three routes were between Amsterdam and New York, San Francisco and Sao Paulo, and the number of intercontinental routes with the service are increasing. 10 new routes are available between Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Toronto, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Nairobi. The airline hopes to roll out the program on all of its intercontinental flights by the spring.


SAS Using QR Codes Creatively

Remember QR codes? Their spread and effectiveness have been discussed a lot but the appearance of creative examples every now and then comes to prove that if used in the right way and for the right reasons they can be of added value.

Scandinavian Airlines recently launched the “Couple Up to Buckle Up” 2 for 1 campaign.

The campaign used two unique QR codes across every touch point (emails, facebook app, banners, print ads .etc), leveraging an insight into how couples most commonly book trips and prompting the airline’s members to enjoy rather than stack air miles.

Couples would each scan the QR code assigned to them, which would sync their half of a video based offer (if they user is smart enough to scan/play at the same time) and reveal the discount code split across both screens.

British Airways’ Inspiration Tool

British Airways has just launched its own inspiration tool, shortly after revealed its inspire me technology promoting the best city break deals.

Empowering the argument towards the total integration of trip planning tools into the airlines and OTAs booking systems, the Holiday Finder is available via a direct link or by clicking on the ‘not sure where and when’ section of’s home page which gives them a number of options including a map-based budget and temperature search. Customers can search using a number of filters including budget, temperature, journey time and star rating.


Booking Destinations “by Weather”?

Students at the Miami School of Advertising have come up with a concept for Virgin Atlantic, aiming to solve one of the biggest problems when we go on holidays every year: the weather. A simple trip plannign tool concept with a single factor.

This idea is aimed at anybody who has ever spent a week getting rained on despite booking a ‘sun holiday’ as it aims to let people book their flights based on nothing but the weather conditions.

Some argue though that simply relying on weather conditions to select a destination, and basing your entire technology around something that uncertain as the weather is not very practical.

Virgin America Crisis Management via Twitter

A good example of effective two-way communication is the one from Virgin America which used social media to personally contact every single customer that complained on Facebook and Twitter about problems making seat assignments, and changing and cancelling flights on VAA’s website. Technical glitches affected the website when the company upgraded to a new Sabre reservation system last October.

The company was not the only one whose system was affected, however it received a bombardment of complaints via its Twitter and Facebook accounts. Virgin America did not delete nor did it edit negative comments on its Facebook page but made a commitment to answer each and every one of the complaints on Twitter—not with a generic post but with a personal response to each complaining passenger, reaching 12.000.

Here are some examples of Virgin America (@virginamerica) responses:

twitter feed

By using the same social media its customers used, embracing all types of conversations, facing the issue, providing information and being honest and helpful, brands which understand the purpose of social media can build trust with their customers and enhance brand loyalty.


Study Snapshot: Business Travel budgets increase but corporations focus on cost savings

GetThere announced the results of the 11th annual GetThere Corporate Travel Benchmark Survey. The survey revealed that while business travel is increasing, corporations are still heavily focused on reducing travel expenses.

While 2010 saw signs of recovery for corporate travel programs, in 2011 the industry should see a greater increase in business travel, according to the survey results. The report reveals that 61 percent of respondents expect their travel budgets to increase up to ten percent in 2011 and nearly a third expect their travel budgets to increase up to five percent. Yet corporations continue to drive down travel costs by achieving higher adoption rates of online travel booking tools.

“Even though the economy is rebounding and business travel is growing, corporations are using the lessons learned during the recession to continue to push for cost savings in their travel programs,” explains Suzanne Neufang, general manager of GetThere.“Online adoption rates continue to rise in every region, representing significant savings for corporations.”

Average online adoption rates increased for the tenth consecutive year. In North America, responding companies reported an average of 78 percent online adoption in 2010, up one percentage point from 2009, and GetThere’s top 10 performing customers reported an average high of 95 percent online adoption. GetThere’s online adoption remains well above the industry average of 51 percent, according to PhoCusWright’s U.S. Travel Distribution 2009 Report.

As a result of higher online adoption rates, respondents reported the following savings:
– An average savings of 70 percent on agency fees
– An average savings of 18 percent and 24 percent on domestic and international airfares, respectively
– An average savings of 12 percent and 31 percent on domestic and international hotel rates, respectively.
– Average rental car rental savings were 4 percent domestically and 18 percent internationally

Corporations Wrap Ancillary Fees into Travel Policies
In 2011, more corporations are addressing ancillary fees in their travel policies as airlines continue to introduce extra fees. In general, most companies are reimbursing travelers for their first checked bag. However, the survey showed a 16 percentage point drop in companies that reimburse travelers for a second bag. Companies reimbursing for on-board food and beverage and Wi-Fi increased by 13 and 20 percentage points, respectively.

“Ancillary fees are here to stay and corporations are developing smart, thoughtful travel policies for these extras that maximize travel budgets and meet employees’ needs while on the road. On-board Wi-Fi is clearly viewed as a valuable productivity tool by more and more corporate travel managers,” said Neufang.

Mobile Space Continues Growth in Meeting Traveler Needs
As corporations continue looking for new technologies and methods to save time and money when it comes to travel programs, mobile tools are invaluable. The mobile space continues to be a growth space for the travel industry, and for the second straight year, respondents ranked obtaining flight information as the most important feature of a mobile solution, while booking flights and hotels ranked second and third, respectively.


Destination BrandWatch: Airlines Teaming Up with Destinations

Tourism Australia and Singapore Airlines launch marketing campaign

An £800,000 advertising campaign to help boost tourism from the UK to Australia in the wake of flooding in Queensland and wildfires in Perth has started.

The joint Tourism Australia Singapore Airlines national ad push runs for a month on TV and online.

Each advert directs consumers to find out more at or from their travel agent.

The TV ad is a 40 second spot expected to reach 21 million of the target audience. This is supported by online spots on travel portals and social media channels.

Tourism Australia UK and Northern Europe regional general manager Rodney Harrex said: “2010 was a tough year for the travel industry yet our visitor figures out of the UK market were stable compared to 2009.

“This shows the ongoing support for Australia from British holidaymakers, who are attracted by the range of diverse experiences. This campaign will help to ensure that the demand for Australia continues through 2011 in the UK.”


Find out more:


JetBlue Airways’ “I Heart Blue York” aircraft livery for New York City

New York-based JetBlue Airways (Nasdaq: JBLU), in partnership with Empire State Development (ESD),  immortalized its hometown status with the unveiling of an Airbus A320 aircraft, aptly named “I HeartBlue York,” featuring the airline’s co-branded trademark with New York State’s iconic I LOVE NEW YORK tourism campaign and logo. The newly branded aircraft was revealed to hundreds of crewmembers at JetBlue Airways’ home base at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport by CEO Dave Barger.

Designed in collaboration with the logo’s original creator, Milton Glaser, the co-branded trademark features a deliberate intersecting of the popular I LOVE NEW YORK phrase with the famous red heart and the JetBlue logo. The logo is placed on both sides of the aircraft’s tailfin. When viewing the aircraft from its left side, the JetBlue logo appears prominently with the red heart. On the right side of the aircraft, the logo is rotated, showcasing the I LOVE NEW YORK logo more prominently.

In addition, short films to promote tourism for New York State will be shown on JetBlue’s in-flight seatback program this month. In partnership with ProMotion Pictures, New York State’s iconic tourism campaign worked with teams of students at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Graduate School of Film to create the films. To find out more and to view the films visit

Created in 1975, the I LOVE NEW YORK logo is an icon recognized around the world. While it has often been imitated, this is the first time the powerful logo has been adapted and co-branded for joint use with another entity.

Read More:

Etihad Airways launches Essential Abu Dhabi Airbus A330-300

Etihad Airways has taken its recently launched ‘Essential Abu Dhabi’ marketing campaign to new heights, with the unveiling of special ‘Visit Abu Dhabi in 2011’ livery on an Airbus A330-300 aircraft, which is set to take the message to Etihad’s destinations around the world.

Key partners of the initiative, which aims to enhance the emirate’s position as a leading tourism and MICE (meetings, incentive travel, conferences and exhibitions) destination, including the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, and Abu Dhabi media representatives, were also on board.

The unveiling of the three-class A330-300 aircraft, which features the airline’s new Diamond First Class cabin and which will fly to London, Geneva, Frankfurt, Paris and Mumbai as part of the Essential Abu Dhabi campaign, is just the start of a number of high profile promotional activities planned in the coming months.

Peter Baumgartner said: “The unveiling of this new aircraft livery with our message to the world to come and Visit Abu Dhabi further underlines our commitment to the growth and awareness of Abu Dhabi, not only as a tourist destination but as a place to do business in a dynamic and friendly environment.

“Since we launched the Essential Abu Dhabi marketing campaign with our partners, we have seen a tremendous amount of excitement and interest from people right across the globe, as well as with local audiences.”

The initiative, which for the first time brings together all of Abu Dhabi’s major tourism operators, is designed to promote the very best the UAE’s capital has to offer through a wide range of deals in its hotels, dining outlets, shops, adventure parks, cultural attractions and sports facilities.

The website provides dedicated pages for hotels, restaurants, Yas Island, entertainment, shopping, arts and culture, adventures and golf, while an ‘Essential Abu Dhabi’ on-board brochure is available for passengers to pick and choose from.

“We wanted to provide a convenient ‘one stop shop’ that will serve as both a directory for the city whilst providing exclusive offers on a range of products and services for our visitors.”

Market Snaphot: London Tops the List of European Destinations, Gulf travellers lead global recovery and Credibility becomes a Key Marketing Factor for US Travelers

  • European Cities Marketing Benchmarking Report 2010: Figures from 101 European Cities.

European Cities Marketing (ECM), the leading network of city tourism organisations in Europe, launched the sixth edition of the European Cities Marketing Benchmarking Report on Friday 11th June, during its Annual Conference in Las Palmas.

The report includes the latest figures about the performance of European Cities in 2009 and illustrates the main trends in city tourism between 2004 and 2009 from 101 European cities. In addition, the Report includes an estimation of prospects for 2010 based on an expert pool of 89 managers of ECM-member cities.

The European Cities Marketing Benchmarking Report focuses on the strategic and competitive position of European city destinations and provides insights into long-term trends as well as recent developments in the European city tourism industry. The report converts statistical data compiled from ECM member cities into comprehensive managerial information and makes it easily accessible, mainly by the graphical representation of charts. ‘It is an indispensable resource for every city tourism manager. We are very pleased that this year’s report has benchmarked a record number of cities,’ said Dieter Hardt-Stremayr, President of ECM, during the ECM Annual Conference in Las Palmas. He also added that the data had never before been available so early in the year.

Top 10 City Tourism Destinations in Europe

Total bednights 2009 in mn.

1. London, 45.0%

2. Paris 33.9%

3. Berlin 18.9

4. Rome 18.6

5. Madrid 13.7

6. Barcelona 12.8

7. Prague 11.2

8. Vienna 10.5

9. Munich 9.9

10. Amsterdam 8.6

Source: ECM calculations


  • Gulf travellers lead global recovery

The recovery in global travel has taken off faster than expected, led by traffic through the Gulf’s big airports. International tourism arrivals in the Middle East climbed 33 per cent in the first four months of the year compared with the same period of 2009, the highest of any region, according to the World Tourism Organisation. This compares to 7 per cent growth for the global travel industry, even after the disruption caused by a volcanic eruption in Iceland. Tourism and air travel in the region are outperforming Europe, Africa, North America and Asia Pacific, fuelling optimism about a recovery in the regional economy. Tourism accounts for almost a fifth of Dubai’s economy.  Read the full article at:

  • Credibility: A Key Marketing Factor for US Travelers

One of the most vexing challenges for the marketers of travel services is that of addressing a fundamental dilemma in contemporary marketing practice: it has become more difficult to influence prospective customers as it has become easier to reach them, says Peter Yesawich, head of the Ypartnership. Personal recommendations have the most credibility while social media have the least, a new analysis reports.

“The question of source credibility is therefore one of great interest to marketers of travel services, particularly as it relates to the degree of influence consumers ascribe to the kaleidoscope of information now available on destinations and/or specific travel service suppliers,” Yesawich says. “And given the explosive growth in the number of sources from which consumers can now sample commentary, it’s important to understand they ascribe far greater confidence to the information they receive from some sources than others.”

This “Credibility Continuum,” as measured in the new Ypartnership/Harrison Group 2010 Portrait Of American Travelers, stretches from the personal testimonials of friends and family members (the most credible) to the content found on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (the least credible).

For more information visit:

  • Airlines to sell the majority of tickets direct to passengers by 2013: Survey

A survey has indicated that airlines are investing in IT to provide richer functionality to their online customers and creating additional channels to market in order to increase the level of direct sales now that online distribution is almost universal.

According to the 12th annual SITA/Airline Business IT Trends Survey, the airlines which carry the bulk of the world’s air traffic, are on course to sell the majority of airline tickets direct to passengers by 2013. The record 129 airlines who responded to this year’s survey carry over one billion passengers and are currently selling 40.8 percent of tickets directly to the public which breaks down as: over the Internet, 25.8 percent; through call centres, 10.7 percent; and interlining, 4.3 percent. These 129 airlines intend to bring their level of direct sales up to 55.1 percent by 2013. While sales through airline call centres and interlining will remain largely static, direct channel sales through websites are expected to jump to 37.9 percent.

In order to increase online sales, airlines are prioritising the implementation of new functionality on their web sites in the following ways: online shopping tools (61 percent have already implemented this); change/cancel/rebook (52 percent); and frequent flyer redemption functionality (51 percent).

In all, 129 airlines responded to this year’s survey, including 14 percent classified as low cost carriers; 81 percent full service carriers; 5 percent charter carriers.

Read the Full Article at:

  • Beyond Airport Security

Business travelers respond to recent terrorist activity with perspective that focuses on fundamental intelligence weakness, not lapses at the airport.

Airlines have proven a target for terrorists, but are they an easy target? The consensus, after a Nigerian passenger attempted on December 25 to mix and detonate explosives on a Northwest Airlines flight en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, is quite possibly yes. There is controversy, however, about what aspects of international airport security need to be addressed and how best to do it.

Read the full article at: