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Airlines need to empower social media managers

A week ago, when Kingfisher Airlines was getting flak from all corners for cancelling hundreds of flights at the last minute, an aviation blogger travelling from Bangalore to Mumbai tweeted, "On board IT flight from Bangalore to Mumbai, flight almost full."

mumbai Updated: Mar 04, 2012 01:26 IST
Soubhik Mitra

A week ago, when Kingfisher Airlines was getting flak from all corners for cancelling hundreds of flights at the last minute, an aviation blogger travelling from Bangalore to Mumbai tweeted, "On board IT flight from Bangalore to Mumbai, flight almost full."

Nearly 12 hours later, he received a response from the airline's official Twitter handle, "Have a nice flight."

The blogger, who did not wish to be named, cited this example to explain how people employed to monitor social networking websites in the Indian aviation sector, particularly in airlines, have a scripted job. "If I was working with the airline, I would have instantly re-tweeted that comment since it is a 'plug' coming from a passenger," said the blogger.

Most airline staff handling social networking sites for airlines and airports in India are either inexperienced or have no authority to provide real time assistance, claim frequent travellers active on these forums.

"Sometimes, I feel that airlines have hired kids for these jobs. Invariably, the response to any complaint is, we regret the inconvenience caused to you," said city-based blogger AJ, who runs a popular travel blog LivefromAlounge.com. "Similar queries sent to US-based carriers such as Delta Airlines or American Airlines result in instant assistance."

Last November, Bangalore-based aviation blogger Devesh Agarwal wrote a post comparing Jet Airways reaching a lakh fans on Facebook with US carrier JetBlue. According to the blog, Twitter is a more popular social networking medium in the West since it is more convenient for smart phone users. Secondly, JetBlue not just has 4.2 times the number of Facebook fans of Jet Airways, the number of Twitter followers it has is more than 300 times that of the domestic carrier (16 million compared to Jet Airway's 5,213 followers).

Even blogs haven't been too successful in improving the air travel experience, admit bloggers. Barring stray cases such as Malaysia Airlines getting flak for banning babies in their first class cabins, and Jet Airways rolling back its blanket ban on meat products in check-in baggage, few blogs have managed to change airline policies. "Blogs referring to specific airlines policies are often perceived as someone's personal grouse. Therefore airlines get away," said Rahul Chauhan, another aviation blogger.