I recently had the chance to attend some of the sessions of the Social Media for Airlines Conference that took place in London, organised by Simpliflying in association with Airline Business and Flight Global and chaired by Shashank Nigam and Mary Kirby (aka RunwayGirl). I would like to share some of the insights I got from this interesting conference (I know, it was nearly two months ago, but this site's redesign plus some other projects that came up left me little time to write a few lines about it!) where I had the chance to meet other bloggers and social media experts that focus on airlines and air travel, such as Paula Berg, Sven Solterbeck, Sergio Mello and Karlis Smiltens.
The sessions I attended were very illustrative of how social media has made a quick foray in the airline scene (and it is here to stay!) sometimes driven by external events beyond the control of airlines. A case in point was the Icelandic volcanic ash-cloud, that grounded almost all European airlines for a number of days last spring.
This event was a watershed in the social media strategy and use for many airlines and aviation related institutions. It was the dramatic disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano what forced these companies to start using social media channels to engage with their stranded clients.
At the start of the crisis some institutions did not have any proper structure to deal with social media (or to interact with their own clients in such a massive scale) and it was mainly thanks to the effort (and sleepless nights) of a bunch of dedicated professionals, such as Aurelie Valtat at Eurocontrol or Christian Kamhaug, of SAS were not only able to improvise and sustain an active presence in the main online social networks, but to set up the basis of what has become a successful long-term social media strategy...So, at least something positive came out of that episode!
I am really looking forward to the next conference where I am sure that, given the unstoppable growth of online social networks and the increasing number of ways in which airlines are tapping them to engage with their potential customers, lots of interesting new case studies will be presented!