Various airlines are taking steps to make air travel more hassle free, using digital tech to make it easier to book and sit with friends.
KLM is implementing Meet & Seat, a scheme that uses data from Facebook and LinkedIn to help people choose who to sit next to, based on the interests or career history they've shared online. Concerns about privacy are allayed by KLM only opening the scheme to people who have opted in.
The scheme is similar to Malaysia Airlines
app on Facebook, which launched last year. Visitors to the MA Facebook page can not only book a flight through the social network, but find friends also planning to travel to the same destination and 'select a seat close to your companion'.
Meanwhile, Scandinavian Airlines has created Couple Up to Buckle Up, via Crispin, Porter + Bogusky. To encourage members of its airmiles scheme to redeem a two for one ticket offer, travellers had to access both halves of a code by watching separate YouTube films sent individually to each person, accessed via a QR code. Based on the insight that busy couples need to make time to agree on a trip, the unique QR codes covered all media touchpoints - online, email, Facebook, banners and print ads, and one partner could send an invitation to the other.
To promote the fact that it not only flies from Sweden to China, but also other Asian destinations, Air China, through Agency Rodolfo, Sweden, devised partnerships with various Asian Restaurants in Stockholm. Signs bearing QR codes were displayed at the participating restaurants, encouraging people to check in via Air China's Facebook. Check-ins were tallied on a leaderboard, with the week's highest scorers awarded two plane tickets to Asia.
Air China reached more than 1 million people through the campaign, and increased its Facebook Likes from nil to more than 3,000.
These approaches show that while improving service in tangible terms - e.g. shortening journey times, cutting down on time spent at airports or reducing ticket prices - is not always possible, airlines can work on improving more intangible aspects of the travel experience, such as a better quality of neighbouring passenger, or an innovative way of booking. KLM's commitment to this kind of social media experimentation is detailed in its Winners and Bloopers blog post
, which charts some of its highs and lows of 2011.
Air China's campaign is a win for everyone involved: the restaurants gained more visitors and the airline was able to spread its message without significant media expenditure. This campaign exemplifies the benefits of strategic partnership, as this competition worked because through the restaurants Air China was already ensuring that it was targeting people with at least a minimal interest in Asian culture.
Contagious subscribers can read a category focus on the Airline Industry, published in issue 29 of Contagious Magazine here