Sunset Take-off (Southwest Airlines)

I hope I’m not boring my four readers with more aviation content here. The fact is, my Reader is now full of aviation-related feeds and the research I’ve been doing at work in the last 3 months is merely about the airline industry in North- and Latin America. I’ve also been spending a lot of time tracking the Social Media activities of companies in this space, both airlines and airline suppliers, and I’ve learned a lot about the intersection of aviation and new media.

The good news is, it’s really interesting stuff and I want to record it somehow, using this everlasting resource (aka my rarely updated blog). Here are some of the take-aways:

  1. Unlike North American airlines, Latin American airlines are strong, privately owned and professionally managed companies that show figures of growth and profitability (look at Gol, Avianca, TACA and Azul). The roles have switched and these airlines now represent strong competition to the legacy North American players. While Latin America is home to some of the most profitable airlines in the world, North American airlines struggle to survive and find a path towards profitability. On the other hand, North American carriers still account for 57% of the world’s domestic passenger traffic and 17% of the international passenger traffic, making it the biggest airline market in the world.
  2. Both markets show signs of consolidation; Colombia-based Avianca and El Salvador-based TACA formed a new Latin American airline powerhouse with annual revenues of over $3 billion pushing it into the top 50 airline groups in the world.  Continental’s entry to Star Alliance marked the first step of a strategic partnership with United that many believe will lead to an eventual merger.
  3. 2009 was the year Social Media became important for airlines. Although carriers like JetBlue and Southwest have been active in Social Media since years, we were amazed by the strategies airlines like Lufthansa, Virgin, Continental and Volaris implemented this year. It is all an interesting preamble of the center stage position that Social Media will have in 2010 for airlines’ marketing and communications.
  4. B2B companies in this space are struggling to find context for Social Media activities. The key here will be to clearly connect Social Media to business objectives and gain a better understanding of how to measure the direct and indirect ROI of social media. Also, I always insist on the fact that Social Media can have a direct and traceable impact on the bottom line, serving purposes like lead generation or more cost-effective communications.

I hope you will find this useful in any way possible, dear reader. Comments or additional take-aways are highly welcome.