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Major Airlines Celebrated Some Big Birthdays in 2014

Image via World Airline News
KLM celebrates 95 years. Image via World Airline News

Aviation is aging beautifully! In addition to the 100th anniversary of the first commercial flight taking place this year, 2014 saw some big milestones for a number of airlines. Over and above big cakes with lots of candles, we looked at how some airlines marked their birthdays.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, touted as the oldest airline, celebrated 95 years in October with a new “KLM 95 Years” logo on one of its MD-11 aircraft, as well as laying the first stone for a new KLM lounge at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

To celebrate 85 years, LAN Airlines treated passengers to an in-flight fashion show. Cabin crew modeled retro hostess uniforms from the 1950s onwards.

Delta Air Lines opened the Delta Flight Museum in Georgia to mark their 85th Anniversary of Passenger Service.

Hawaiian Airlines marked their 85th anniversary by distributing Wrigley’s gum, honoring a long-time tradition of assisting passengers with ear pressure.  South African Airways turned 80 this year, acknowledging various milestones throughout their history and announcing the addition of 20 new aircraft to their fleet.

Hawaiian Airlines celebrate 85 years with Wrigley’s gum

British Airways marked their 40th anniversary by releasing a list of top 40 trips to take before you’re 40, while Air Malta turned 40 with a ‘look back’ video. Virgin Atlantic’s 30th was celebrated by a new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner called ‘Birthday Girl’.

The industry has grown experientially since that initial single-passenger flight 100 years ago, with airlines now flying over three billion passengers per year.  Celebrations continue into the new year with more airlines achieving milestone anniversaries. In 2015:

  • Qantas: 95 years
  • American Airlines: 85 years
  • Air India: 85 years
  • TAP Portugal: 70 years
  • Thai Airways: 55 years
  • Air Canada: 50 years
  • Ryanair: 30 years
  • Emirates: 30 years
  • EasyJet: 20 years
  • JetBlue: 15 years
  • Virgin Blue/Virgin Australia: 15 years

The Top 10 Social Airlines of 2014

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In 2013 it was reported that airlines were the most social industry on the internet and there was no slowing down in 2014. Many airlines are fully engaged in social media, promoting contests and specials, cracking jokes and providing useful flight information. Predominantly on Facebook and Twitter, airlines are getting personal with their passengers.  The idea of social media as essential customer service has really taken off this year with best response times to customer queries happening in, sometimes less than, minutes. We took a look at what it takes to be top of class in 2014.

Simpliflying released their Best in Social Media a few months ago and Skift has their picks in. To determine our favorites we looked at the frequency of posts, engagement with passengers (unscheduled activity) and a healthy variety of content. 24/7 coverage was noted and bonus points awarded for posts that made us LOL (visit hashtag #AirNZHobbitNose for a quick giggle.)

Continuously Royal Dutch Airlines KLM surfaced with innovative campaigns, an ability to listen and understand passenger’s needs combined with a willingness to take risks to surprise and delight travelers! Their #happytohelp campaign saw a broad range of customers issues solved in real time through quick responses, creative measures and available resources.

Honorable mention goes to JetBlue. Their friendly and timely engagement demonstrates the value they place on happy customers. Kudos awarded for going over and above to respond to comments that don’t require responses in an effort to get to know travelers.

In no particular order, below is our list of ten of the best for 2014. Quirky videos, great hashtags and awesome giveaways are all elements of a successful social media campaign but the quality that flows through the list below is the connection to the passenger. Engagement is the ingredient many brands are missing and it’s what sets the leaders apart. The standards are set high for 2015 as airlines continue to wow passengers and staff through innovative social campaigns.


Delta Air Lines

Air New Zealand

Southwest Airlines

American Airlines


British Airways


Cebu Pacific Air

Virgin America

Show us your #OfficeInTheSky!

A photo posted by Virgin America (@virginamerica) on

Boredom campaign keeps customers entertained

Cloudgazer.JPGThere’s nothing funny about being bored, especially being bored and on an airplane. So when Delta Air Lines launched their #Unbored campaign with the “Cloudgazer” game, marketing it as “the world’s most boring game,” customers saw the humor. The game invites players to explore a generic cloudy sky, similar to the view from an airplane window. The longer you play, the more bored you prove yourself to be. When players voluntarily end the game their level of boredom is rated. The game serves to promote awareness of Delta Studio, the new entertainment offerings available on Delta Airlines, and a solution to combatting on-board boredom.

Paul Skrbec, spokesperson for Delta Air Lines, explains that the campaign promotes the value of entertainment through encouraging the opposite. He tell us, “We are continually looking for ways to engage our customers. Our social media team came up with this idea of #unbored, using humor to highlight a seemingly negative element of flying customers are well aware of, to create awareness around Delta Studio in-flight entertainment.” Skrbec carried on saying the campaign is performing well and participation exceeded expectations.

We’ve seen numerous airlines using humor and irony to engage customers. As highlighted in a previous post Virgin America’s spoof airline BLAH Airlines directly addresses popular complaints travelers make about flying. This tongue-in-cheek campaign style serves two purposes, demonstrating the airline understands customer’s criticisms and using humor to engage and amuse. As proven with Delta, humor and sarcasm are effective ways to get customers to visit your page and spend time there, even if only to prove their boredom.

Where the #unbored campaign has a direct call to action, leading site visitors to the Delta website, BLAH airlines seems to be pure entertainment – aside from their almost six hour flight simulation video, which takes boredom to a new level. If you’ve got time to kill, airline tongue-in-cheek campaigns are excellent time wasters. You’ll also learn which spoof airline advertises a free cup with every coffee purchase.

Tesla Taxis, Uber and Luxury Rides: Driving the End-to-end Passenger Experience

Much attention is devoted to aircraft cabins, in-flight entertainment and new technology, all of which is long forgotten when a passenger deplanes and looks for their next ride. How are airports and airlines working with the automobile industry to enhance the “vehicular leg” of a flyer’s end-to-end passenger experience?

Luxury Tarmac Transfers
Photo: GM

Photo: GM

American Airlines has now joined United Airlines and Delta Air Lines in offering a luxury car service to priority travelers. Partnering with Cadillac, the airline will offer on-site airport transfers to elite travelers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport.

United Airlines’ chauffeured tarmac transfer partnership with Mercedes-Benz offers top travelers access to rides in Mercedes GL-Class vehicles, and was expanded this September, adding Denver International Airport to a list of locations that includes Chicago O’Hare, Newark Liberty, San Francisco International, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, LAX, and Washington Dulles. Delta’s service, first introduced in Atlanta in 2011 as a “surprise service” for elite flyers, chauffeurs travelers in a Porsche Cayenne in New York, Minneapolis, Orlando, Los Angeles.

In Dubai, Emirates chauffeurs their first-class customers in Mercedes vehicles and their business-class customers in Volvos, while first and business-class travelers also have access to complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers in over 70 of the destinations they service worldwide.

Elite Lufthansa travelers in Frankfurt have the choice of being ferried directly to the aircraft’s first-class entrance in a Mercedes S-Class sedan, Porsche Cayenne, or a Porsche Panamera. At Doha International Airport, Qatar Airways transfers first and business class travelers to the Premium Terminal in BMW 7-series sedans.

These partnerships not only bolster the airline’s luxury image, they also augment loyalty programs with incentives, round out the end-to-end experience for high-paying clientele, and offer car companies a exclusive platform to reach their target demographic with exclusive deals, test drives and more.

The Taxing Taxi Debate

Luxury partnerships go a long way to enhance an airline’s brand, but with the introduction of ride-sharing options like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, airlines and airports have been forced to re-evaluate the options available for their taxi-commuting clientele.

Taxiing Gets Uber Complicated

Though banned from most airports in the United States, employees at Uber’s headquarters are researching ways that the service can revolutionize transportation to the airport – one idea involves having people who are already driving passengers to an airport drive arriving passengers home for a fee.

Pressure from local taxi companies and airports have made airlines slow to embrace ride-sharing services, but it likely won’t be long before more airlines follow the lead set by United Airlines in August when they partnered with Uber to allow customers to book rides through United’s mobile app. United and Uber worked around the city-regulated ban in Chicago (United’s largest hub) by finding a loophole that exempts UberTaxi, one of Uber’s options, from being prohibited.

For it’s own part, Uber has ventured into tailoring to higher-range passengers with its UberBlack and UberLux services. UberBlack offers Mercedes E-class, BMW 5-series and Audi A6 black cars, while UberLux’s fleet includes Mercedes S-class and BMW 7-series limos, Porsches, and Jaguars.

Schiphol’s Tesla Taxis

Officials at Schiphol International Airport have taken taxiing into their own hands by opening a concession that will operate a fleet of over 100 electric Tesla Model S luxury vehicles. The service will be operated by three local taxi companies, chosen for their contributions to the sustainability and environmental endeavors at Schiphol. The taxi service includes access to 4G of free Wi-Fi, complementing the free Wi-Fi already offered at the airport.

The announcement of the Tesla Taxis coincides with Tesla’s plans to open 25 Supercharging stations in 11 countries and Schiphol’s ongoing environmental campaign. The airport has not banned ride-sharing companies like Uber, which services Schiphol to Amsterdam with a flat rate of 45 Euros for UberBlack and 55 Euros UberLux. Tesla Model S will be available for standard meter fares, with a minimum fee of 25 Euros.