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Airlines & Text Messaging: Short codes, toll-free SMS, and the hybrid messaging solutions that bring it all together

George Perry George Perry
George Perry
Image for a blog on hybrid text messaging for airlines

Flying can be stressful for your customers. Between packing, arriving at the airport on time, getting through security, and taking the actual flight, your customers have a lot on their minds. Which is why downloading your app may not be their top priority.

That’s why text messaging for airlines makes so much sense—it’s an application that’s already on their phones, and we’re all pretty well wired to check our texts as soon as they come in—95% of texts are read within 5 minutes of being received. I mean, when was the last time you didn’t at least look at a text as soon as it arrived?

But which text messaging solution is right for your airline? Why does it have to be one solution?

Let’s take a look at the types of text messaging available, and how the airline industry can leverage them (or a combination of them) to better serve their customers.

Types of Text Messaging

For our purposes there are three (3) types of text messaging: short codes, toll-free SMS, and Local A2P texting. Let’s take a fairly quick look at what they are, and the differences between them.

Short Codes

Short codes are 5 to 6 digit numbers that enable you to send high-volume, high-throughput messages to customers that have opted-in to receiving them. Short codes are great for one-way communications, but outside of limited, pre-programmed responses (ie: Press “C” to confirm”), they’re not really set up for two-way communication, and they can’t be called if the customer needs to talk to a live human.

Toll-Free SMS

While you already know what a toll-free number is, you may not know that you can text-enable them, and that you don’t need to get a new toll-free number just to do that; you can use your existing number.

Like short codes, toll-free numbers are sanctioned to send high-volume, high-throughput text messages to customers that have opted-in to receive them. Unlike a short code, toll-free numbers give the perception that they can be replied to much in the way you would reply to any other text. Also, the number can be voice-enabled if you want, allowing it to be called directly from that text messaging screen—enabling customers to more easily escalate to a live agent if needed.

Local A2P (10DLC)

Local A2P, or 10 digit long code, allows for high-volume text messages to be sent over sanctioned local phone numbers. These numbers function much the same as toll-free SMS, allowing for customers that have opted-in to receiving your messages to text back or call back if they need to escalate to a live agent.

Local A2P is perfect for when you need to send high-volume messages and locality matters. For most airlines this won’t be the case, but we don’t want you to be uninformed.

Hybrid Messaging

So the question is: what’s the best type of text messaging for airlines to use? The answer: a combination. A hybrid messaging solution combining short codes and toll-free SMS is ideal for how airlines and their customers want and need to interact.

Here’s what that can look like.

Taking a vacation

A Sapphire Blue passenger boards a Blue Line Air flight from Raleigh to Atlanta to visit their family. Upon arriving in Atlanta, the passenger receives a text over a short code thanking them for flying with Blue Line Air and reminding them that their baggage claim is Carousel 2.

A week later the same passenger receives a text from Blue Line Air, this time from Blue Line’s toll-free number, informing them that their return flight to Raleigh has been cancelled. This text includes a link to open the Blue Line Air app for more information, as well as encourages them to call the number they received the text from, to speak to an agent about booking a new flight.

This scenario shows why a hybrid messaging solution is ideal for airlines like Delta. While sending simple reminders, such as where a passenger can get their bags, is a perfect way to use short codes, customer support and notifications that will trigger an action by your most loyal customers, like when their flight is cancelled, are better suited to toll-free SMS, which allows these customers to text back or easily call without having to look up a phone number.

By using short codes and toll-free SMS in a hybrid solution, you can provide your customers with a better experience while enabling them to easily and effectively engage with your airline as they need to.

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Bandwidth is your single source for all your text messaging needs

No matter where you stand with your messaging solution, Bandwidth is here to help. Whether you need to acquire a short code, migrate an existing one, or text-enable your existing toll-free number, Bandwidth’s team of messaging experts is here to help you through the process. With enterprise-grade APIs and a nationwide network, we can provide your airline with the solution you want, the reach you need, and the expertise you deserve. Get in touch to learn more, and see how our SMS solutions can work for you and your customers.

Toll-Free SMS Short Codes