Regular operations resumed at McCarran Airport a few hours after the tragic attack on a nearby concert in Las Vegas.
The shooter, identified as Nevada resident Stephen Paddock fired hundreds of rounds at the crowd with an automatic weapon from the thirty-second floor of the Mandalay Bay casino, which is located near the periphery of the airport.
In a statement posted as an Emergency Notification header on its website, McCarran Airport writes:
“With heavy hearts, the people of McCarran International Airport are pressing on with normal airport operations.
“It’s imperative during times of crisis that air travelers maintain the ability to get to and from their homes, jobs, friends and loved ones.”
The airport halted operations after the shooting incident on Sunday night, with nearly two dozen flights diverted to other airports. Limited operations resumed after an hour, about 1:00 am local time.
McCarran says that access to the west side of its airfield, located nearest to the incident, is still limited with helicopters tour operations and other businesses affected, with no impact to commercial flights.
There were reports that some of those who had been in the concert had run away from the spray of bullets onto the airfield.
The airport also offered guidance on Twitter to passengers who may have lost their ID on what they need to do to be cleared by TSA to fly home.
With heavy hearts @LASairport is pressing on this morning with full operations. It’s critical we help air travelers get to/from their homes.
— McCarran Airport (@LASairport) October 2, 2017
Social media outreach
Throughout the crisis, McCarran actively used social media channels Twitter and Facebook to keep the public continuously informed on the status of operations.
While many airlines have made a positive reputation for themselves online through effective social media communications, airports, which generally have tighter budget restrictions, have been slower to engage travellers on these channels except for promotional messaging.
But McCarran airport has made effective social media communications a priority.
The airport was also recognized for its effective emergency updates when a British Airways aircraft caught fire on the tarmac in 2015.
In March of this year, the airport used social media to dispel misinformation about its operations, following strong winds.
The company partners with iWeSocial, a Division of Zunesis, to fine-tune its social media engagement through in-depth analytics of conversations around the airport. As the company explained in its announcement of the partnership in 2014:
“By categorizing topics of conversation we can identify specific issue areas. Maybe a power outlet in Terminal 3 needs maintenance, or perhaps a restaurant within the airport is under-performing. The end result is an airport armed with better information can provide a better experience for travelers.”
In 2015, Samuel Ingalls, assistant director of aviation, information systems at McCarran International Airport, said of the iWeSocial analytics product:
“It became, almost immediately, something that was very valuable from our director of aviation to all of the executive team and on down through the organization. I’ve never seen a product or service come into the airport, in all of my two decades plus time here, and seen it become such a vital part of what we do here so quickly.”
That the airport has made social media a priority is fitting for a city which has also focused on social media as channels for “humanizing government”, focused on personal engagement with residents and visitors as well as accurate and timely messaging.
McCarran has also made social media a corner-stone of its tourism strategy, establishing a WeChat channel which offers pre-trip planning guides and helpful airport information.
A number of solutions exist in the market to help airports develop better communications strategies.
BizTweet has helped airports around the world better manage high-volume messaging through automation.
While AI may not be able to address the unexpected with as much empathy as a human social media service agent, having such tools available can free up personnel to handle the most critical requests.
By whatever means work best for the organization, developing a specialized team, outsourcing, or automation, social media can no longer be a secondary priority and can be a more effective method of rapid dissemination of information than press releases or answering media queries.
In recent years, social media has shifted from a marketing-nice-to-have to a critical communications tool for travel companies.
Nothing highlights the value of investment in these platforms like swift and accurate messaging when it is needed most.
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