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  • Writer's pictureTeam Reeler

UGC in airline marketing – engaging passengers and boosting reservations

Photo of NYC through an airplane window, used as UGC in airline marketing

The airline industry has gone through some challenging years recently, and many companies have needed to reshape their entire businesses to bounce back. The marketing side is no exception; today, we see that many airlines are leaning more toward content marketing and starting to embrace user-generated content (UGC) on a larger scale. As a reminder, user-generated content (UGC) is when companies source marketing content from their own customers, in this case, the passengers. A variation of this is when airlines source content from their own staff, the flight crews – this model is often called employee-generated content (EGC). But why exactly are airlines embracing UGC and EGC? What benefits do they get from sourcing content from their own passengers or their crews? In this blog post, we will clarify exactly how UGC and EGC transform airline marketing, elevate overall passenger experiences, and help boost bookings for those airlines that innovate.

1. Engage travelers with authentic experiences

Today's travelers no longer trust advertising the way they used to. Instead, they trust the opinions of their friends or their fellow travelers out there. Many Airlines understand the power of UGC, allowing them to showcase these experiences in a genuine and relatable manner. Whether it's an enticing meal onboard, a heartwarming encounter with cabin crew, or inspirational content from new destinations, UGC brings to life the real stories of passengers who have enjoyed their journey. UGC establishes trust and inspires potential customers to experience a trip for themselves.

One early adopter of UGC is Delta Air Lines, which encourages passengers to share their travel stories and moments using the hashtag #DeltaAirlines. By curating and showcasing this UGC, Delta effectively engages with its passengers and inspires future travelers to choose their airline.

2. Build loyalty and community

Airlines are known for building customer loyalty through their mileage programs, and now UGC gives them yet another tool to nurture their communities. For example, KLM once asked their passengers to submit their personal profile pictures, and they selected 3,965 of them to decorate a real aircraft, manifesting and solidifying customer loyalty.

Another example: we already mentioned Delta Air Lines, and they actually promote a separate hashtag for their SkyMiles members: #SkyMilesLife. By encouraging members to share their moments with Delta and using this content in their communication, the airline nurtures a sense of community and belonging among its repeat customers.

3. Showcase the world, at a low cost

Airlines often serve a wide range of destinations around the globe, from bustling cities to serene beach destinations. And to inspire travelers, they want to show engaging content from all these destinations. But how do you even begin to source unique content from such a vast network of places? Sending photographer teams would be very costly, and resorting to stock footage would look dull and impersonal. Well, the solution spells UGC. Passengers, thrilled by their travel experiences, share photos and videos of breathtaking landscapes, vibrant cultures, and memorable adventures. This rich UGC entices potential travelers to explore and associates the airline with the joy of discovery. And airlines can achieve this in a much more engaging way – and at a fraction of the cost – compared to hiring paid photographer teams.

For example, Emirates effectively utilizes UGC to showcase the beauty of various destinations they serve. Apart from encouraging passengers to submit content from their travel destinations, they've also enlisted their own flight crews to contribute with destination footage in the form of employee-generated content (EGC).

4. Boost flight reservations

UGC plays a vital role in influencing potential passengers' decisions to choose a particular airline. When travelers see positive experiences shared by fellow passengers, it creates a sense of anticipation and eagerness to book a flight with that airline. UGC acts as a compelling call to action, nudging travelers to take the next step and confirm their reservations.

For example, Vueling launched a campaign called #MisMotivosVueling, asking consumers why they wanted to get on a plane again after the pandemic. Promoted on both Instagram and TikTok and offering the chance to win free flights, this campaign was an enormous success. The content generated has garnered close to 1 billion views on TikTok alone! As you can imagine, the excitement around the campaign helped Vueling fill its planes again.

Photo of family enjoing an in-flight meal, used as UGC in airline marketing

UGC in airline marketing – conclusion

In an era where travelers seek genuine experiences, airlines are well-positioned to inspire potential passengers with UGC. Authentic content from real passengers equips them to engage travelers, build loyalty, and expand their reach to new customer segments. By embracing UGC, airlines can multiply content output while saving on costs. Most importantly, airlines can significantly boost flight reservations, setting the stage for unforgettable journeys and experiences.

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