Skift Take

Imagine the Twittersphere is actually a middle school cafeteria: American is a Chatty Cathy, JetBlue is the popular prom queen, and Spirit is the grumpy silent kid sulking in the corner.

Last week we launched our first data dashboard in beta, SkiftSocial read more about the launch here, and what it means for social media monitoring in the travel industry.

Customer service representatives at airlines had no idea what was coming for them the day that Twitter launched. The social media platform has completely changed the dynamics between airlines and their customers, those both happy and furious.

Several carriers have harnessed their new tweeting power to create not one, but two accounts to share company news, highlight fare alerts, and handle customer service issues. Others have all but ignored it; a move that has spawned a number of hate accounts in response to the carriers’ lack of communication.

Using statistics collected from SkiftSocial, we looked at how and how often ten U.S. airlines tweet and talk to their flyers.

Top ten

The ten most popular U.S. airlines on Twitter are as follows:

  1. JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue and @JetBlueCheeps)
  2. Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir)
  3. American Airlines (@AmericanAir)
  4. Delta Air Lines  (@Delta and @DeltaAssist)
  5. Virgin America  (@VirginAmerica)
  6. U.S. Airways (@USAirways)
  7. United (@united)
  8. Alaska Airlines (@AlaskaAir)
  9. Hawaiian Airlines (@HawaiianAir and @HawaiianFares)
  10. Spirit Airlines (@SpiritAirlines)

JetBlue is the most followed U.S. airline with a total of 2,056,426 followers on its @JetBlue and @JetBlueCheeps accounts. Filling out the top three is Southwest Airlines with 1,441,569 followers and American Airlines with 496,704 followers.

While some airlines are excelling at this new form of customer service, others struggle to keep up with the fast-paced conversation or even break the 100,000 follower mark. Spirit Airlines is the loneliest of the tweeters with 40,966 followers, preceded only slightly by Hawaiian Airlines‘ humble 50,138 follower count.

U.S. Airlines Twitter Followers

Tweet patterns

U.S. airlines are tweeting anywhere from 600 times to just once a day.

American Airlines is the noisiest and most engaged of all U.S. airlines. American’s 15-person social media team sent out an average of 605 tweet a day over the past two weeks; 98.7 percent of those 8,468 tweets were replies. You can read more about American’s customer service success on Twitter here.

JetBlue has more followers than American, but it’s daily tweet rate is considerably lower. In an average two-week period, a team of 22 customer support crewmembers sent out a total of 2,570 tweets, or 134 tweets a day, 93.7 percent of which were replies.

Every airline, with the exception of Hawaiian and Spirit, is responding to customers’ comments in more than 75 percent of its tweets, even when they attempt to direct users to their website for customer service.

In fact, Spirit struggles to tweet just once a day and it’s almost never in response to a received tweet. Perhaps this is because the budget airlines neglects to follow even one person on the platform.

US Airlines 2-week period

Airlines tweet to talk to you

Airlines at the top of their game say they’re monitoring their Twitter accounts on a 24/7 basis.

The weekends are the quietest days on twitter with every airline sharing and responding the least on Saturdays and Sundays. No one particular weekday stood out as the noisiest day on Twitter.

American says the ratio of complaints to compliments fluctuates depending on the time of year, and other factors out of the airline’s control that impact travel including bad weather or ATC delays. JetBlue says it hears everything from customer concerns and compliments to special requests and funny observations.

“Twitter has changed the pace of customer service. We understand the important of real-time correspondence with our customers and in engaging with them not just to answer questions…but also to have fun,” says JetBlue representative.

A sense of humor helps, and both Delta and American encourage their social media teams to let their individual personalities shine through when talking to customers.

US AIrlines Daily Tweet Rate

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Tags: american airlines, jetblue airways, southwest airlines, twitter

Photo credit: We're all airline tweeters, it is the most cliched form of complaining on Twitter. Michal Osmenda /

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