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How U.S. Airlines Manage Customer Service Expectations on Twitter

Jul 31, 2014 4:15 pm

Skift Take

Separate Twitter accounts for customer service, discounts, and international fans are not the norm for U.S. based airlines.

— Joyce Manalo

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Alaska Air  / Twitter

Alaska Air's Twitter profile description and replies. Alaska Air / Twitter


For an airline employee managing a social media account, the sheer volume of tweets, @ mentions, direct messages and hashtags can be as high as 30,000 a week. And if the weather’s bad it’s even higher.

Although some of the airlines appear to be involved in a 24/7 race to provide customer service to their passengers, not all airlines promote their Twitter accounts as a channel to respond to complaints and concerns.

Most share a shortened link to fill out an online form in its descriptions. For example, even though American Airlines is active fielding customer service requests on Twitter, its bio reads, “Thanks for checking in! We’re here to offer advice and inspiration for your trip on American. Please click here if you require a formal response to a complaint: bit.ly/AACR1.”

Two of the ten U.S. airlines we’re tracking, below, provide working hours for their customer service efforts. Alaska Air publishes a time when its team “listens” while it also informs and delights its customers on one handle. Delta maintains DeltaAssist that says, it’s “listening around the clock, 7 days a week.” Frontier Airlines also has a separate social care account, @frontiercare that handles inquiries. One important detail here is, both Delta and Frontier’s main accounts do not redirect its customers to the dedicated social care account.

This is not to say the remaining brands ignore conversations and requests received, they are addressed differently. JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Skywest’s Twitter descriptions, more or less acts as a disclaimer and sets the expectation of the brand’s purpose on this channel. Brands are present and available, but not completely on the hook.

On SkiftIQ, Southwest Airlines resurfaces every week because of its notable status updates. For the month of July, its daily average increased roughly 10% each week. Although they don’t outwardly admit that they respond, they do. The team might as well admit that they listen and act accordingly.

Virgin America is the only one bold enough to say they are not available to respond. “Although we won’t address specific guest service issues on Twitter, our team of experts is eager to help you at http://vgn.am/GstHlp or call 1-877-359-8474.”

Apart from brand awareness and customer service, two brands decided to use Twitter to focus on deals. JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines have distinct accounts that communicate special fares and discounts. Both don’t outwardly promote these handles on its main Twitter handle. That space is reserved for redirecting customers with issues.

In comparison to international carriers; American, Delta, and United do not have separate accounts for their international customers. KLM has roughly 30 handles in its “Official KLM accounts” Twitter list that include specific accounts for countries it flies to, special promotions, and rewards. Cathay Pacific has a similar structure while British Airways has two, one main and the other for its American customers.

Below is a chart on how U.S. airlines plot their respective courses on Twitter.

Airlines on Twitter by Followers, Handle and Purpose:

Brand Twitter Followers Twitter Account Brand Awareness Customer Service Sales
JetBlue Airways 1,835,741 JetBlue X X
406,424 JetBlueCheeps X
Southwest Airlines 1,695,732 SouthwestAir X
American Airlines 890,037 AmericanAir X X
Delta Air Lines 719,473 Delta X
148,000 DeltaAssist X
Virgin America 547,942 VirginAmerica X
United Airlines 480,025 United X X
Alaska Airlines 117,377 AlaskaAir X X
Hawaiian Airlines 79,293 HawaiianAir X
29,169 HawaiianFares X
Frontier Airlines 48,917 FlyFrontier X
9,203 FrontierCare X
SkyWest Airlines 1,733 SkyWestAirlines X

Source: Skift

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