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Streaming in the Air

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This article originally appeared in The Education Issue of APEX Experience.

Binge-watching began with the invention of DVD box sets more than a decade ago, and gained popularity as a natural result of DVR and on-demand services. Now, inexpensive streaming networks like Netflix and Hulu have made bingeing the norm – and not on the ground.

According to Maura Chacko, vice-president, development at Spafax, airline passengers expect to consume media at 30,000 feet in the same way they would on the ground.

“Passengers do request having not only the most current seasons of programming available onboard, but also box sets of full seasons, or as many episodes as possible … especially on long-haul flights,” says Chacko, who oversees the in-flight entertainment (IFE) television programming for many of North America’s major airlines.

For Chacko, binge-watching television onboard definitely “enhances the passenger experience.” Many airlines have responded by providing full-length television series on their IFE systems. Some offer streaming entertainment systems via onboard servers, allowing viewers to stream binge-worthy content on their own devices. The House of Cards, Netflix’s first original series to win an Emmy, has been added to several airlines’ IFE catalogues, including Delta Air Lines, United and Qantas. British Airways has launched its own in-flight HBO channel, offering favorites such as True Detective and Game of Thrones. Passengers don’t even have to wait for takeoff to tune in.

Qantas’ recently overhauled in-flight entertainment system, Q Entertainment, includes a higher volume of content, designed to accommodate passengers with binge-watching tendencies. Olive Wirth, Qantas Group executive of brand marketing and corporate affairs says, “This means … 100 hours more TV and movie content, 160 hours of box set viewing, triple the number of new release albums and double the number of blockbusters.”

Chacko confirms that an airline’s television package matters more than ever before. “The price of a flight is always going to be the main differentiator when passengers are picking one airline over the other, but if you have similarly priced flight tickets and one of them offers 300 TV shows while the other airline only has 20…” she trails off, concluding that passengers are more likely to pick the flight with more TV shows.

For many airlines, binge-worthy entertainment is only one step towards a more customized and connected IFE future.

See our list of binge-worthy programs to check out!

10 Airline #TBTs That Will Teach You Something

Airlines like to reminisce about their shining moments just as much as we do. The #TBT, or #ThrowbackThursday, hashtag offers them a chance to share interesting historical tidbits, company milestones  – and maybe throw in the  odd humble brag every now and then. Click on the photos to begin the slideshow.

Curious for more on how airlines have capitalized on the #TBT hashtag? Read “Throwback Weekly” in The Education Issue.

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.

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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.

KLM

Delta Air Lines

Air New Zealand

Southwest Airlines

American Airlines

JetBlue

British Airways

United 

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.