Americans are missing flights as TSA wait times increase, and airlines are taking advantage of consumer anger to build a unified front.
U.S. airlines are looking at a record-setting busy season for air travel this summer. Trade association Airlines for America predicts that this summer’s passenger volumes will be 4% higher than last summer’s record high volume.
But good customer experiences are harder to find this year. TSA security checkpoint lines are growing and customers are frustrated. Because of this, airlines are seeking billions of dollars from Congress to help pay for the overloaded passenger screenings.
Homeland security officials want the airlines to stop charging fees for checked bags. They say that because of the fees, more passengers are carrying bags onto the planes, resulting in longer security checks and wait lines. The result is a stalemate that is leading to growing anger on all sides. It’s even led to the launch of a social media-driven website I Hate the Wait (set up by the trade association Airlines for America) where customers can leave notes, hashtags, images and videos to chronicle the long TSA waiting times at a certain airport.
Besides spending money on processes and operations, airlines are going to social media, blogs and videos to curry favor with customers and win over disappointed customers. Here’s a look at what some of the airlines are doing to help turn the tide on TSA anger:
- Delta Airlines spent $1 million at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to set up faster screening lanes, dubbed “Innovation Lanes.” The airline is using this content video on its blog page to highlight the initiative, and the company is also promoting its content on its Twitter page.
- American Airlines spent more than $4 million to hire more contractors to help in the screening process. It’s also using three adventure bloggers to chronicle its “United States of Adventure” campaign this summer.
- United Airlines is promoting Instagram as its main content marketing play right now. In less than 10 months, United has gained nearly 250,000 Instagram followers, and its hashtag #unitedairlines has been used over 150,000 times on Instagram.
In other years, customers were angry with airlines. Now, with TSA’s shortcomings revealed, it looks like airlines and passengers now have a common foe. Through this ordeal, passengers are getting some help from airlines. Once the dust settles, though, the TSA staffing problem might prove to be the catalyst for a great marketing campaign that brings customers and airlines closer together.
Until the airlines start to raise their prices again.