AI to tap Facebook, Twitter

Written by Shaheen Mansuri | Mumbai | Updated: Apr 11 2011, 07:39am hrs
National carrier Air India (AI) is the latest to market itself via social networking site Facebook and micro-blogging site Twitter. The airline, which is aggressively pursuing an image makeover, is looking to enhance sales by at least 30% through these new forms of media. At present, an increasing number of domestic and international airlines are using the social media platform for brand promotion.

Says Arvind Jadhav, AIs chairman and managing director, Until now, we were unable to provide a flexible pricing and customised products to our customers. While other airlines have their presence on Facebook and Twitter, we were missing from that space.

AI will henceforth have a corporate account on Facebook, where customers can book tickets and check their flight status. Public facing corporate blog on Twitter will help the airline to understand customer behaviour and redress complaints, if any.

International carriers like the US-based Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines have found a boost in their sales via Facebook, according to media reports. Airlines like Air Canada also prefer sites like Flickr and You Tube to interact with customers.

Private carrier Jet Airways has over 1.5 lakh fans on Facebook and the airline is constantly enhancing its media presence through sites such as LinkedIn, which is a professional social network and even on Foursquare, a location-based mobile social networking application. These initiatives are part of the airlines strategy to reach out to a larger cross section of costumers and engage with them on a real time basis. Kingfisher, too, is active on Twitter, addressing its customers queries. AIs Jadhav is confident about Facebook and Twitter helping the carrier increase customer engagement and brand value.

Once brand AI is exposed to a larger audience, it can translate into more sales. Social networking sites have opened up a new distribution platform for the airline. The traditional travel agents and travel websites will co-exist with the new medium, says Jadhav.

The new marketing efforts will give an additional push to the airline which has already benefited from an increase in air travel in the post-recession period. AI clocked in network revenues of R4,400 crore on its international flights in the April-November 2010 period, up 15.8% from the corresponding period in 2009. It also reported a 35% jump in revenues on its domestic network at R2,849 crore during the period, compared to R2,110 crore a year ago.

Maneesh Jaikrishna, SITA country director, south Asia and India, adds, AI can use social media to listen to its customers and offer solutions to their grievances, if any. He further says that airlines globally, via social media platform, want to get the online community involved and motivated to travel.

SITA is an IT solutions provider to global aviation companies. An analyst explains, A well attended guest or happy customers tweets can do wonders to airlines, which perhaps advertising cannot.