Social media has long been a tool used by airlines to engage with their passengers. YouTube and Instagram allow airlines to share slickly produced videos showcasing new aircraft, cabins and routes. Snapchat, for those that have embraced it, allows airlines to take passengers behind the scenes and show case live events such as inaugural flights on new routes.
Arguably, the most significant social media tool is Twitter. But it is something of a double-edged sword for airlines. At its best, it can be effective tool for rapid responses to customer queries and for distilling information quickly. But every airline is one tweet away from a worldwide social media storm.
Twitter not only provides a direct line of communication between passengers and airlines, but also their staff. And a growing number of BA pilots have amassed quite significant followings on Twitter. Not only that they are starting to co-ordinate their presence under the hashtag #BASMART
Leading the initiative is British Airways A380 pilot Dave Wallsworth who has amassed some 25,000 followers. Dave frequently dispatches updates as he plies BA’s Airbus A380 network to destinations such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Los Angeles.
Here’s a video Dave recorded from the flight deck taking off from Vancouver, bound for London Heathrow:
— Captain Dave (@DaveWallsworth) July 7, 2017
Here’s a video Mark Mannering-Smith recorded in advance of a recent flight to Beirut:
— Mark Mannering-Smith (@mmsBA) August 3, 2017
And their presence on Twitter has yielded results. Sky News presenter Kay Burley may be utterly fearless on live TV, but not so on an aircraft. BA’s tweeting pilots have provided much help to Kay in addressing her fear of flying.
— Kay Burley (@KayBurley) August 3, 2017
The commitment of BA staff to engaging with the public on social media should be applauded. With the airline currently stuck in a seemingly interminable cabin crew strike, it is a salutory reminder of the value of motivated and engaged staff.
For an industry that is traditionally used to promoting itself under very tightly controlled brand identity guidelines, there may be some reticence among airlines in ceding control to front-line staff on social media. However, aviation is a fundamentally people business and hopefully this organic initiative is one that will be supported and encouraged by BA HQ.