Aer Lingus is an airline based in Ireland that serves over 90 destinations around the globe. The nerve centre of Aer Lingus operations is their Global Control Center (GCC), in Dublin – it’s here that Aer Lingus makes sure every aspect of their operations and customer experience runs smoothly. Airlines are always up against the elements and need to constantly react to changing environments, conditions, and unknown events. This is where SAM comes in. While certain changing conditions like weather, staff and equipment are known factors, there is always the unknown unknowns that are much harder to predict or monitor. For example; what happens when an airport you service loses power? What if there is a suspect package and subsequent lockdown? Or worse, what if the unthinkable happens that puts staff and passengers in harm’s way. These things are extremely high impact and likewise hard to monitor for – they rarely have a brand mention or keywords that are easily monitored.
This is why Aer Lingus turned to SAM. SAM uses AI to detect crisis events within minutes of occurrence from on-the-ground social media sources – helping Aer Lingus stay ahead of events that might impact operations and customer experience before they hit the news. We spoke with Paul Buckley, Head of Social Media at Aer Lingus, about how they use SAM. Paul is a savvy practitioner and a frequent conference speaker on how airlines can leverage social media and take great care of their passengers. Thanks for talking with us Paul!
Q: How is SAM deployed at Aer Lingus?
SAM is used across two departments: Social Media and Operations Control. As part of a wider online monitoring effort, our Social team monitors three streams within SAM. The first is an Aviation Smart Stream which returns aviation-related results from locations where we operate: North America and Europe. The second is an All Events stream for Ireland, our home market. Thirdly, we loosely monitor a Global All Events stream.
Q: What sort of alerts does Aer Lingus act on?
We’re looking out for different things from each of these streams. We’ve configured active notifications on the Aviation stream, as these are the alerts that are most likely to have a direct impact on our operations. We have enabled email and Slack notifications on this stream.
An example of an actionable alert would be an incident occurring at an airport which we serve. We would need to quickly determine whether that incident had the potential to impact on our ability to operate a normal service at that airport. Once we’ve done that, we can then take appropriate steps to protect our operation and minimise disruption to our guests.
When it comes to the All Events stream for Ireland, we’re looking to maintain a contextual awareness of events that could indirectly affect our operations. Examples include weather, security, or general transportation issues that could impact on the ability of guests or crew to get to the airport on time.
Q: Why do alerts that might not have a direct Aer Lingus mention in them impact the social care team?
As mentioned before, we do not need to be an active participant in an event for it to have a direct impact on us and our guests. Security, weather, and incidents involving other airlines all have the potential to affect our operational performance, and in turn, our guest experience. Our social care team need to be briefed on these situations in order to be able to provide a complete response that is useful to the guest.
Q: How did Aer Lingus monitor these situations before SAM?
Before using SAM we relied on other social listening tools for brand mentions. And while we continue to use separate social listening tools for monitoring online brand health, we found the ability of these tools to capture data outside of a predefined set of keyword groups to be limited. We would have also monitored Twitter Trends and “What’s Happening” sections for emergent events on an ad hoc basis. We also found push notifications from news apps to be fairly useful. However, the overall effect was a patchwork of tools and notifications that was not reliable and that delivered a lot of irrelevant content.
Q: What impact does SAM have on Aer Lingus mission and stakeholders?
Our ambition is to be the leading value carrier across the North Atlantic and we will continue to add new routes and capacity over the coming years. This growth is driving a strategy of expanding our Dublin Airport base into a major European transatlantic gateway. And alongside our growth strategy, we remain committed to delivering our signature high standard of service to our guests. A key part of this service delivery is operational performance. Having access to breaking information from SAM means that we keep on top of the various incidents and events that have the potential to impact on our service delivery, ensuring the smoothest possible outcomes for our guests.
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