KLM uses WhatsApp to aid traveller tracking

KLM has introduced Family Updates on WhatsApp, a new service that allows passengers to start a WhatsApp group with colleagues, friends and family. 

The airline has been communicating with its customers via WhatsApp since 2017. The platform is used to send passengers booking confirmation, check-in notifications, flight information, boarding passes, and now, family updates.

After passengers receive their boarding passes on WhatsApp, KLM will send an invitation to join the group free of charge. The airline then makes the customer administrator of the group, which allows him/her to invite colleagues, travel managers or family who can ask KLM for updates on the flight status, to which the airline responds using artificial intelligence. The group is also notified when the flight has departed as well as when it arrives, even before the passenger has WiFi or data roaming.

The airline is unable to read messages exchanged between other members in the group and leaves the group when the passenger has arrived at the destination. The WhatsApp group will remain active even after arrival so members can share updates of their trip, in one central place, as the trip is on the go.

The service is currently only available in English, with plans to expand to other social networks and languages in the future.

Travel and Meetings Buyer spoke to a number of travel buyers about the likelihood of their using a tool of this nature, one of whom noted that there was a feeling of fatigue over WhatsApp groups, with constant messages becoming frustrating for members, and a lack of appropriate etiquette for the group. However, the same buyer suggested this service would help buyers stay on top of things when flights were delayed or had been diverted. It was suggested that SMSs worked well for travel buyers to communicate with their corporates, however the ability to know when a member has seen a message is also helpful for buyers working on urgent issues.

As technology continues to advance, corporate travellers are adopting new ways of keeping in touch. Last year, a GBTA report, conducted in conjunction with SAP Concur, revealed that corporate travellers relied heavily on technology to assist them during their travels. The report concluded that human resources, travel buyers and family members were the top-ranked categories of people that a corporate would contact in the event of an emergency while travelling.



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