I came across this amazing infographic piece on Mashable recently on how much resource the airline industry is start to throw at the whole social media game. SimpliFlying recently examined how the big dogs in the airline industry shift around social media efforts and they found that they are ramping things up quite a bit.
It shows that taking an integrated vs. dedicated approach is hands down more powerful than communicating with the social media audience with just a dedicated department.
The moral of this visual story above is that social media is generating a great deal of influence for airlines. Instead of assigning a department they are blanketing an integrated approach across the company to get other silos involved in the social media communication efforts. The reality is that social media is playing a very large role when it comes to search engine marketing. The overlap between social media and all other online marketing efforts is very evident. I can see many other organizations large and small taking a similar path as this one above.