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Special Project

Special Project
From the 1st Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

#FlyWithIBD: taking the anxiety out of travel for people with IBD

Entered in Health & Fitness


Approximately 32 million people live with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in Europe. Many of these patients have restrictive dietary requirements and failure to comply with them may lead to serious relapses of their disease, which can severely impact their health. Limited inflight meal options can make it stressful for those living with IBD or IBS to travel via air.

Inspired by the experiences of a colleague on a business trip to Japan, the regional Europe and Canada Corporate Communications team at Takeda Pharmaceuticals decided to try and make a difference for people travelling with IBD and IBS. Their mission was to raise awareness of the challenges faced by travellers with IBD/IBS and encourage airlines to provide greater choice & detail on ingredients of foods offered on flights, to create a more positive experience for travellers living with IBD/IBS.

To deliver Takeda's mission, the team set itself five campaign objectives:

Engage four key airlines from across Europe and Canada in dialogue around challenges faced by travellers with IBD/IBS within four months

Gain public support from two patient organisations for the Fly With IBD campaign within four months

Secure 250 campaign supporters to raise awareness of the need for airline policy change to support travellers with IBD/IBS within two months

Secure support for the campaign from a patient blogger within four months

Build Takeda employee engagement with the campaign by initiating conversations on internal channels

Strategy and Execution


Three components were key to accelerated campaign implementation while ensuring high impact and awareness across Europe.

1. Create a single, simple campaign call to action that can be supported by people outside the IBD community to generate greater exposure and awareness

2. Partner with procurement colleagues to influence via Airline Key Account Managers and Preferred Partner contracts

3. Co-create and curate content using real life patient experiences to show the impact and stress of air travel on people living with IBD


Before initiating the campaign it was important to gain an understanding of the IBD/IBS environment. We audited key airlines' menu provisions to ascertain response for people whose needs are not covered by advertised options. A review of online IBD conversations uncovered existing influencers and explored engagement with the topic of travel in the IBD community. The insights gathered informed our approach including the channel mix and influencers we engaged.

We secured the support of senior management to lead by example, encouraging them to drive conversation on internal and external channels. We used Thunderclap as a single online place to outline our campaign call to action and a way to unite the voices of patient groups and individuals to amplify our campaign message.

The four airlines most frequently used by Takeda employees were sent letters signed by Marc Princen, President, Takeda, Europe and Canada, asking them to consider four simple changes:

1. Provide greater details on ingredients of any food offered on flight online at least 48 hours prior to the flight

2. For ingredients to be labelled on individual in-flight products and to have products individually wrapped

3. Provide greater choice with multiple allergy/intolerance menu options for all IBD/IBS passengers

4. Automatic seat prioritisation next to WC for passengers who have selected an IBD meal option

The communications team at Takeda partnered with procurement to set-up meetings with the airlines to discuss the campaign in the context of Takeda's preferred partner contracts. This ensured a consistency of communication through all channels as well as adding a commercial pressure to get the airlines on board.

Takeda country offices were key to securing patient organisation engagement. All the campaign materials (airline letter, email for patient groups, tailored patient blogger communications, suggested social media posts, local blogger information and Thunderclap copy and artwork) were shared with affiliates for translation, adaptation and distribution.

Contact was maintained with affiliates throughout the campaign and local successes recognised by the team to maintain engagement. Yammer communications maintained momentum and awareness amongst internal audiences. Employees flying during the campaign were encouraged to photograph their airline meal and share, commenting on the lack of suitable options for people with IBD. Takeda also posted regular campaign updates and reminders on their LinkedIn page.


Seven airlines received letters and all responded

Five airlines (including United, Lufthansa Group, Air Canada and All Nippon Airways) met with Takeda and have committed to improving their offer for people travelling with IBD with quick fixes and have agreed to investigate longer term solutions including staff training and priority toilet passes

Nine patient groups supported the campaign with five allowing use of their logo on materials

122,798 people reached through 411 Thunderclap supporters, representing 164% of target (Local market engagement with the campaign led to launch of a second Thunderclap for German speaking audiences)

1,758 tweets including the campaign hashtags reached over 1.5million accounts over campaign duration

One patient blogger engaged with the campaign, signing up to the global Thunderclap and including the campaign in a post on her blog as a useful resource for people living with IBD

10 Takeda country offices engaged with the campaign and Takeda employees participated in 54 Yammer conversations and two LinkedIn Pulse articles

Based on the success of the campaign, Takeda has committed to reengage with and build upon the existing audience to continue positive change for people with IBD when travelling.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Red Door Unlimited, Takeda Pharmaceuticals International AG – Europe and Canada


Entry Credits