Importance of Social Media in the Aviation Department

Social Media is considered to connect people without any limitation of distance, time or cost. It not only enables us to connect to our dear ones but also it helps in reaching out to build professional relationships. It also helps in building good relationships with the customers and get their feedback for the services the company provides. A statistic has shown, that “social networking is the top online activity in the US, with the average American spending 37 minutes per day” (Karr, D., 2014)Due to the popularity and the increasing number of participants, more and more businesses, amongst others many airlines, realized that social media is a useful tool and a general foundation of their marketing strategy to reach prospects and customers. Social media provides the opportunity of getting close to the customer which is also known as Social Customer Engagement Management. To bridge the gap between the customers’ want and the quality of our product and services, it is important to understand the customer and it is believed that social media can bridge that gap. Companies need to reflect positively on customers by answering politely, quickly and with a helpful attitude. A statistic of 2014 has stated that 49% show positive reactions towards the interactions with brands on Facebook and 55% on twitter, whereas 20% of users negatively react on interactions on both platforms. This shows, that improvements are always necessary and recommended.
International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) best practice guide for crisis communications depicts three drivers behind the evolution of social media. They are: connectivity (one-third of the world’s population actively use social media channels); mobility (by 2020, some 80% of adults globally will own a personal smartphone); and streaming video (Facebook Live quickly achieved notoriety after several shocking incidents were streamed on the platform as they occurred). IATA describes Twitter as the “most widely-used ‘micro-blogging’ service” and notes that it is available in 30 languages, including Chinese, Korean, and Arabic. It also reports that a tweet from a “survivor or eyewitness can reach tens of thousands of users around the world in minutes, including mainstream journalists who monitor Twitter”.
KLM, for example, offers service on social media 24/7, by responding within an hour and helping with requests within a day. Moreover, they offer assistance in more than 10 languages on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 2015). Nowadays, KLM almost reaches 10 million likes on Facebook. Comparing their social media strategy to Lufthansa, the company aims to be wherever their customers are. Since 2009 they provide a Facebook page, counting almost two million likes. Up-to-date information, news and daily offers can be found as well as discussions about service issues can be hold directly with the company (Lufthansa, 2015).
In the previous years, the presence of airline companies is growing larger on social media and the interactions with the companies are increasing. For example, “there has been a 60% increase in the number of tweets received by airlines between February 2011 and March 2011. In March 2011, airlines received 101,400 tweets and sent out more than 24,000 replies” (Hameed, B., 2011). Moreover, 40% of airlines focus more on their social media presence by expanding their social media team. Employees from customer service, marketing corporate communications and e-commerce are brought together (Hameed, B., 2011).
To conclude, the availability of airlines on social media platforms increased significantly due to the rising popularity of social media. Social media is often used as a foundation of a company’s marketing strategy and research has shown, that customers react on it.  Hence it becomes very important for the aviation sector to take up social platform, not only to socialize and built the business relationships but also to understand the need and wants of the customer.
Advantages of using Digital Technologies in the Aviation sector
With IATA predicting an increase to 7.8 billion passengers to travel in 2036, doubling the 4 billion that traveled in 2017, how can the industry better manage disruption through social media channels in the future? “AI is set to revolutionize airport social media,” says Ben Nimmo, founder and CTO at Orlo (formerly social media management company SocialSignIn), who explains that Orlo has been developing solutions that enable organizations to manage high-volume, emergency situations as effectively as possible. Nimmo explains that Orlo is using AI to draw out key places, names, organizations and mentions, and that understanding sentiment only is no longer enough. “When you combine emotion detection with entity extraction, you have rich contextual understanding around customer experience and events,” explains Nimmo. “That creates a new level of insight and greatly informs your decision-making going forward, helping get the latest, accurate, concise information out quickly to passengers affected.”
In India the most technology-friendly airport is considered to be Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Hyderabad. The airport has managed to introduce self-check-in procedure. The passenger can print his own ticket. Along with that sticker for bag are also printed. On the next step the passenger can drop off their own bag without any hassle or standing in queue. The passenger can further move for security checks. This procedure is still on trial and will soon receive a green signal from higher authorities. At Hyderabad airport you will witness that there are separate check in counters for people with only a hand bag. Hyderabad airport also has a better baggage belt system to insure only safe bags go on board and no passenger is carrying any illegal item with them. Digital technology could be very useful for the aviation industry. It will make things faster and reduce the human labor. Also Hyderabad was the first airport to try facial recognition system at their premises.
While talking about the digitalization of airports and the aviation sector we need to understand that no airport is the same and accordingly, airports will have different needs and priorities when it comes to implementing digital technologies.
Secondly, airports are at various stages when it comes to implementation. While most airports are transitioning away from Airport 2.0 (self-service and process efficiency) to Airport 3.0 (using digital to optimize flow monitoring and passenger processing) this masks a number of differences in airports’ understanding, freedom of action and overall strategy.
That said, some key aspects of digital technology the majority of airports interviewed wish to see implemented. Cloud computing and big data and analytics were highlighted most frequently, but also other technologies such as smart machines and robots, virtual modelling and simulation and the Internet of Things (IoT). Cloud computing can enable airports to be more agile and deploy new solutions with greater ease for instance and analytics and virtual modelling can assist in monitoring passenger flows.
An uptake in digital technology will be beneficial to airports and their passengers. Digital improves efficiency, which reduces costs and in turn improves passenger experience. There’s a direct correlation between experience at security and propensity to spend money. Airports are first and foremost commercial entities and they have a vested interest in keeping their passengers happy.
There’s an opportunity for digital technology to deliver real and tangible benefits to passengers. With improvements to flight management processing they are likely to see fewer delays and rates of baggage reconciliation are likely to improve. With end-to-end biometrics, transitioning through the airport is likely to become a much better experience for the passenger, where you effectively just walk into the airport and it’s a seamless and touch-free process all the way onto the aircraft.
Uptake of digital technology will be a valuable tool for airports when it comes to handling increasing volumes of passengers, hence why airports with the greatest capacity constraints are using digital for greater optimization and operational resilience and agility. If airports are to handle increasingly larger numbers of passengers, then they are going to have to be more efficient and more adaptable. Virtual modelling and simulation will allow airports to better allocate resources to respond to peak times. It will also allow them to foresee the impact of flight delays and make optimal use of the runway.  Big data and analytics will also help airports to optimize passenger flows, allowing them to process larger numbers and also provides information for effective decision-making.

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