Gatwick Airport: Using Twitter To Create A More Human Experience For Passengers

Gatwick Airport has been using Twitter to keep passengers informed with realtime updates during disruptive weather and flight delays, as well as updates on everyday airport activity.  This week, the airport’s Twitter account, @gatwick_airport, became the first UK airport to be recognized by Twitter as a verified account, receiving, as a spokesperson put it, “Twitter’s ‘blue tick’ of authority.”

Twitter has also included Gatwick in its Enhanced Profile Page roll out – a new profile design which helps brands better convey important messages to followers. Gatwick will be able to use this functionality to highlight key content in times of disruption by promoting a Tweet to the top of the airport’s timeline on the profile page, ensuring latest information and advice is easily accessible. This will enable Gatwick to alert passengers to key Tweet content at all times, such as flight scheduling and breaking travel news.

According to the Airport’s PR agency, Gatwick Airport is not a Twitter advertiser, so it is possible for brands to be awarded profile pages and verified account status without being a Promoted Products customer.

Creating a More Human Experience for Passengers With Social Media

Gatwick Airport’s commitment to engaging customer service on Twitter is part of a broader effort to introduce a more human and personal experience for passengers as they travel through the airport, which was launched after a December 2009 change in ownership in December 2009.  It is the UK’s second-largest airport, serving more than 200 destinations in 90 countries for around 32 million passengers a year.

The airport offers 24/7 Twitter customer service support, which includes the #askgatwick hashtag, and is committed to responding to passengers and addressing issues immediately.

Gatwick was also the first airport to use mobile barcodes as public information points, the first European airport to have an Instagram feed, and has very active profiles on Facebook, Tumblr and Qype, a British user reviews site.  Each channel has a different purpose and execution plan:

  • Twitter:  realtime updates and customer service replies
  • Tumblr:  talk about the latest news in a less formal way than on the Gatwick website
  • Facebook:  share updates and encourage visitors to share their experience, too
  • Qype:  allows passengers to leave and read transparent reviews about the airport and it’s facilities
  • Foursquare: offers for passengers
  • Instagram:  adds a visual edge to Gatwick’s online presence, highlights images by others, too

Spokesperson Zoë Baker emphasized that, “in every sense, Gatwick aims to work with an existing community for each network in a way that suits them and aids the passenger experience before, during and after visit to the airport.”

Realtime Customer Service Leads to More Engagement

On Twitter, some of the largest gains in followers and engagement came during weather-related emergencies and other natural disasters, with the airport updating worried or stuck passengers about conditioins in realtime.   During the severe UK snow in December 2010, Gatwick’s Twitter account fielded 300 passenger queries every hour and gained 15,000 followers.  During the ash cloud event of 2011, some of the Gatwick feed’s messages were retweeted almost 200 times.  The airport also used Twitter to keep passengers informed during a recent strike, with messaging about the event reaching 66,450 people.

But Twitter is not just for emergencies, says Head of Airport Communications Lindsay Baldwin. “We recognize the importance of providing accurate and timely communication–not only during times of disruption but also in responding to broader inquiries or passenger feedback. Twitter provides us with an immediate and effective communications platform to do just this.”

Of course, a social media strategy, on its own, will not turn around a tired brand or make up for a poor customer experience.  Judging by @gatwick_airport’s response in this Twitter exchange, the airport is aware of this–and willing to stand up for the hard work its doing in a very human-sounding voice:

Congratulations on your blue tick, Gatwick Airport.

How are you using social media to make your brand more personable?

And, for those of you who travel, which airport do you wish would provide realtime customer service like Gatwick’s?