- Southwest Airlines this year will expand its promotional tie-in with Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" to include augmented reality (AR) experiences that fans can share on social media, according to a company announcement. The airline now offers Facebook AR filters that travelers can download to see virtual sharks swimming across their mobile screens and post to social using the #SharksTakeFlight hashtag.
- Southwest's in-flight entertainment portal will feature a Shark Week TV Series Channel with a library of episodes from the Discovery show, which celebrates its 31st anniversary this year. Travelers can view a new episode titled "Extinct or Alive: The Lost Shark" before it premieres on Discovery.
- The airline also is running a "Dare to Dive" sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip for four to the Bahamas, where winners can participate in an underwater experience. Southwest is celebrating Shark Week for the entire month as Discovery Channel prepares to air its shark-related programming from July 28 to Aug. 4.
While Southwest has run Shark Week promotions for the past six years, the airline aims to appeal to younger travelers by adding mobile-based features to this month's campaign. AR filters are a popular way to engage users of social media apps like Snapchat, which last year said about 70 million of its users play with its AR lenses every day. Sharing travel experiences is also popular on social media, and Southwest could boost brand impressions as travelers share the Shark Week content while they wait to board planes.
Airlines have adopted AR and virtual reality (VR) technologies to entertain travelers and provide immersive views of their planes. Swiss International Air Lines in May unveiled an AR web ad that showed an immersive perspective of its business cabin. Other airlines including KLM, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic have showcased their planes' interiors with 360-degree videos that show mobile users what it's like to fly with them before they book a ticket.
Southwest continues to ramp up its social media presence this year. In February, the carrier began recruiting social influencers to create travel content while they explore Southwest destinations in the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America.
For Facebook, Southwest's Shark Week campaign this year is another use of its AR filters, which it began rolling out across its suite of applications last year as Asus, Kia, Nike and Sephora tested AR filters on Messenger to bring immersive mobile features to platforms users are already familiar with, potentially boosting their usage.