08 Feb 2017 15:31 IST

The little blue bird is waiting for take-off

Airports in the country are yet to leverage Twitter’s reach among their customers

Thiruvananthapuram, Kolkata, Gaya, Varanasi, Jaipur...the list seems to be endless. Airports in all these cities joined Twitter in August 2016. The rush to the little blue bird’s nest apart, these accounts have made little noise since then to make their presence felt.

Varanasi airport’s twitter handle, for instance, has tweeted six times in nearly six months.

For both the airports and fliers, this is an opportunity lost. Airports are an integral part of a traveller’s flying experience. And many of them find an easy tool in Twitter to take their suggestions and complaints to the airports.

Though a few of the airports under Airports Authority of India (AAI) interact with passengers, a majority are yet to use Twitter fruitfully in spite of opening accounts.

According to AAI’s annual report, it owns and maintains 125 airports. This includes 69 operational airports, 26 civil enclaves (civil air terminals at Defence-controlled airports where AAI handles civil flight operations) and 30 non-operational airports.

While more than 50 of the airports now have Twitter accounts, none of these has yet got the blue tick, the sign that the account has been verified by Twitter. Many passengers, who want airports to be more accessible, have raised this point with Jayant Sinha, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, where else, but on Twitter.

Why Twitter

Kishor Cariappa, a digital marketer based in Muscat often flies to Mangaluru. But he often finds himself lost when it comes to getting information about the city’s airport. He feels that Twitter can be used to provide update on flight delays, congestion at airports, best practices to be followed during check-in and immigration check.

Dikshith Rai, founder of the Mangaluru-based tech start-up Codecraft Technologies, adds that social media platforms like Twitter help institutions respond faster to passenger queries.

“Conveying concerns and giving feedback become much easier for a passenger,” said Rai.

As of now, a few of those AAI airports on Twitter are using this tool to highlight their projects, completion schedules, services available for passengers and the introduction of flights, and some programmes organised at the airport among others.

Only a few airports have made efforts to reply the queries raised by tweeples.

Air Sewa

Jayant Sinha, who took charge in July 2016, has been getting complaints and suggestions on various aviation-related issues, including those on AAI’s airports, through Twitter. In fact, he was among the first politicians to join Twitter, way back in 2008.

However, these days Sinha has been asking the passengers to send their suggestions and complaints to Air Sewa, the web portal and mobile app. This facility was launched on November 25, 2016. According to one of his recent tweets, Air Sewa had closed 82.5 per cent of the 1,085 grievances received till January 29.

Air Sewa might very well emerge as an important tool for addressing complaints and concerns of passengers in the days to come. Meanwhile, thelittle blue bird of 140 characters is waiting to take off.

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)