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Airlines across the world have stepped up their content marketing game, leveraging website content, blogs, apps, and social media to engage customers, build loyalty, and promote new routes and benefits.

Here, we pick four of the best airline content marketing campaigns, and explain why they worked so well.

Icelandair - Iceland Stopover

Icelandair’s Stopover program allows passengers to visit the continent for up to seven nights with no additional fees when traveling to more than 20 destinations in Europe. To promote this feature, the airline launched a multifaceted content marketing campaign.

The promo included a contest, promoted on Icelandair’s website and coordinated across social media. The winners received a 48-hour stopover and a personal guide to show them around. The journey was captured on video, and shared on social media.

Using the hashtag #MyStopover, Icelandair encourages travelers to share their stopover experiences. Followers are still contributing content to the campaign, with Icelandair regularly re-tweeting and re-posting.

Why It Works: The Stopover campaign combines an intriguing concept (what does Iceland have to offer?), an incentive (entering a contest), and follower engagement (a campaign-branded hashtag and user-generated content). By mining user experiences, the carrier created loads of useful content on sights, lodging, food, and more. And the ongoing use of the branded hashtag drives content contributed by the very people an airline wants championing its brand – loyal travelers.

WestJet - Christmas Miracle

In December 2013, Canadian airline WestJet set up a digital kiosk at departure gates in Toronto and Hamilton airports. There, Santa Claus appeared on screen, asking travelers what they wanted for Christmas. As the passengers flew to their destination, WestJet employees scrambled behind the scenes to purchase and wrap gifts.

The resulting Christmas Miracle campaign video shows highlights from the event, including travelers’ reactions when they open the gifts bearing their names on the luggage carousel. Tears, smiles, and hugs ensued – and the video has generated more than 44 million views on YouTube and 13,000 Facebook likes. Due to enormous success, WestJet ran it's Christmas campaign in 2014 (Spirit of Giving) and 2015 (12,00 Mini-Miracles) and continued to engage clients (and the marketing world).

Why It Works: On its own, the idea of surprising travelers with big-screen TVs, tickets home for the holidays, and even socks and underwear (requested by at least one practical traveler) is sure to generate at least a modicum of brand loyalty. But by creating and sharing a video of the experiment, along with using the branded hashtag #westjetchristmas, the airline was able to share the feeling of good will and sheer happiness with the world.

Virgin America - Between Meetings

Virgin America’s “Between Meetings” is an especially solid example of what well-thought-out content marketing can do for a brand.

In a series of blog posts, Virgin America highlighted all the things travelers can do in a variety of cities in just one hour. From indoor skating in Montreal to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis, the airline provides comprehensive city guides that encourage anybody traveling for business or pleasure to explore the world.

Why It Works: It can be difficult to figure out what to do with a block of time in an unknown city, but Virgin America takes the edge off by publishing great guides to sightseeing in even the briefest amounts of time. They cover a range of experiences, from entertainment and culture to food and drink, and encourage readers to share their own experiences in the comments section. By sharing the posts on social media, they generate more readers, and more potential travelers.

Emirates - Be There

After running an in-house talent search of employees, Emirates chose seven “Globalistas” to travel the world and report back on hidden gems and once-in-a-lifetime experiences in cities across the airline’s global network on six continents.

The campaign started with Rahed Ammoura, a cabin crew training specialist, who explored the island of Bali. His video coincided with a daily service to the island that Emirates rolled out in June.

Emirates partnered with the National Geographic Channel to broadcast the unique storytelling to global audiences.

Why It Works: With the Be There campaign, Emirates shows the value it places on its employees and the amazing potential of travel. By partnering with a global brand, they produced stunning examples of storytelling and broadcast to travelers around the world. And by showcasing beautifully crafted storytelling, the airline encourages followers to share its content, creating a self-sustaining network of brand ambassadors.

Read more about how going social, local, and mobile can benefit your airline.

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