Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has been named ‘Best Overall in Middle East' at the SimpliFlying Awards 2015.
The awards recognise excellence and innovation in social media and marketing campaigns in the aviation industry. Winners were announced last week at a glittering ceremony during the Travel Distribution Summit North America in Las Vegas, which was attended by more than 350 travel and hospitality executives.
An expert panel of industry experts selected Etihad Airways as winner of the Best Overall in Middle East Award in recognition of the airline's innovativeness, engagement and business impact in the social space over the past 24 months.
Shane O'Hare, Etihad Airways' Senior Vice President Marketing, said, "We are delighted to win this important award, which is a great reflection on our commitment to delivering powerful, effective social media strategies and campaigns.
"Social media is an integral part of our communications mix. We will continue to raise the bar in the global travel industry by creatively integrating digital and social media into our overall marketing and business strategy to enhance guest experience."
Shashank Nigam, SimpliFlying's CEO, said, "Etihad Airways has made tremendous progress in the last year in how it uses social media, especially for customer service initiatives like the Twitter channel for elite flyers. It is a trail-blazer in the Middle East, an innovative way to engage passengers".
Etihad Airways implemented various initiatives on its social media channels, including a best-in-class customer service strategy, with a 90 % response rate and with 80 % of all enquiries answered within 10 minutes. Guests can communicate 24-hours a day in multiple languages including English, Arabic, Mandarin, German and Italian.
Earlier this year, the airline launched @EtihadPremium, a first-of-its-kind Twitter account, providing its Gold and Platinum frequent flyer programme members with exclusive prioritised service.
In 2014, Etihad Airways rolled out an innovative social media initiative, offering travel tips to Facebook and Twitter users through the #EtihadSuggests hashtag. In the past 12 months, the hashtag earned 713 million impressions, which equates to US$1.2 million in earned media value.
As part of its social first strategy, Etihad Airways used its social media channels as the first medium to break news, allowing it to benefit from maximum engagement and reach. In the past year, the airline launched its new A380 and B787 product and services, livery, and cabin crew and ground staff uniform with a social first approach. This earned the airline 224 million impressions, US$400,000 in earned media value and nearly 4,000 mentions.
The Etihad Airways ‘Flying Reimagined' global TV commercial, which launched earlier this year featuring Nicole Kidman, was also creatively leveraged on social media to inspire and engage guests. YouTube was the hosting channel for the commercial, supported by a paid-media campaign in key markets, as well as active community engagement using the #Reimagined hashtag. The commercial garnered 5.1 million video views on YouTube, with an impressive retention rate of 89 percent.
Driving revenue and delivering commercial value through social media promotions and advanced targeting techniques has been a key goal for Etihad Airways in 2014 and 2015. These activations helped the airline realise more than US$20 million in revenue from social media, including over 8,000 conversions resulting in a 17 times return on investment.
This year, the airline launched its 'always-on' paid media strategy to target quality-focused leisure and business travellers in Etihad Airways' top 15 markets. This is complemented by tactical activities to target a price-sensitive leisure audience with promotional fares.
Etihad Airways was the first brand in the world to utilise Facebook's expat targeting feature, and combine it with its own data to create a highly-targeted Diwali campaign to drive bookings in the UAE to bring friends and family over from India.
Etihad Airways has more than 2.8 million followers across all of its social media channels, including over 1.6 million Facebook fans. Fans can stay connected with the airline by visiting any of its social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, WeChat, Youku and Sina Weibo.
The airline was also a highly commended finalist in the categories of ‘Best Airline in Customer Service' and ‘Best Airline in Driving Revenue'.