Skift Take

The majority of international airlines are newer to Twitter than their American competitors and still in the process of realizing that the power of the platform centers around communicating, not static sharing.

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.

Right this very minute, airline employees are sitting in a small office in Malaysia, a beach-side tower in Brazil, and a sprawling complex in Mexico monitoring travelers’ tweets.

The tweets are flying across continents or just a few cities to either thank or berate the airlines for their service (or lack thereof). It doesn’t necessarily matter what they’re saying or where they’re coming from since they all merit a reply in the eyes of a customer service team. The truth is; however, that airlines’ ambitions rarely match reality.

Using numbers collected from SkiftSocial, we looked at how and how often major airlines from around the world tweet and talk to their passengers. In some cases carriers have accounts in multiple languages or targeted to one geographic area. We have focused on global airlines with a strong presence in English.

Top ten

The ten most popular international airlines on Twitter are as follows:

  1. AirAsia (@AirAsia and @AirAsiaBlog and @askairasia)
  2. Philippine (@flyPAL)
  3. Cebu Pacific (@CebuPacificAir)
  4. TAM (@TAMAirlines)
  5. KLM (@KLM)
  6. Aeromexico (@AeroMexico_com)
  7. Volaris (@viajaVolaris)
  8. Turkish Airlines (@TurkishAirlines)
  9. British Airways N.A. (@BritishAirways)
  10. VivaAerobus (@VivaAerobus)

AirAsia is the most followed international airline with 724,622 followers. This factors in the followers of the its three accounts for announcements, customer service, and its blog; the last of which hasn’t been active since 2010. AirAsia’s CEO Tony Fernandes is also an avid tweeter sharing multiple messages a day on anything from meetings with Airbus to his dog Jack.

On its own, AirAsia’s official Twitter profile still has more followers (594,623) than those that come immediately after it including Philippine Airlines (446,305) and Cebu Pacific Air (439,408).

We were impressed to find that all of the airlines in the top ten had more than 230,000 followers. British Airways and VivaAerobus are at the bottom of the list with 265,536 and 233,9333 followers, respectively.

Where they’re from

Out of the the ten airlines with the strongest presence on Twitter four are based in Asia, two of which are from the Philippines. British Airways and KLM are the only European airlines to make the list, TAM is the sole South American, and three are Mexican carriers.

To see statistics on the top ten U.S. airlines, see here.

It’s interesting to note that not one of the booming Gulf carriers makes the top ten. Qatar Airways has the most of that group with 57,511 and Etihad Airways brings in the rear with just 14,486 followers.

Global Airlines Twitter Followers


Tweeting from almost opposite sides of the globe, TAM and AirAsia are the most engaged international airlines. In an average two-week period, approximately 97 percent of their tweets were replies to customers’ comments and questions.

TAM tweets an average of 182 times a day, which is more than double AirAsia’s 83 daily tweets. Both airlines appear meek in comparison to KLM’s 345 daily tweets. In a two-week period, about 93 percent of its 4,830 tweets are replies.

Sentiment of Data

A representative of TAM estimates that 50 percent of all incoming tweets are neutral, 35 percent are negative, and 15 percent are positive. The Brazilian airlines’ customer relationship department monitored the account from 2010 until 2012, at which point it created a six-person team to handle the account full time.

“Our focus on social networks is increasing and, at the same time, we are getting closer to our customers. The informality of these channels makes the dialogue much more personal, allowing us to monitor sensitive issues and to interact with people giving them the information they really want within minutes,” says a TAM representative.

Global Airlines Reply Tweets

Tweet patterns

These airlines are tweeting anywhere from 350 times to just once a day.

The airlines with highest daily tweet rate are also amongst the most engaged, but there are exceptions to the rule. Aeromexico tweets an average of 89 times in a two-week period, or 7 measly tweets a day, but 74 percent of those tweets are replies.

Tweets v Engagement

Aeromexico’s engagement is far superior to the airline with the most similar sharing rate,  VivaAerobus. VivaAerobus tweets an average of 8 times a day, but only 13 percent of its tweets in a two-week period are replies.

Turkish Airlines comes in last in terms of daily tweet rate and response rate. The airline has put some major dollars behind its advertising campaigns in recent months, including the viral ad featuring Kobe Bryant and Messi, yet still rarely tweets more than once a day and never in response to a follower. A quick look at its Twitter feed reveals that the platform is used solely to share announcements and contests, not as a customer service tool.


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Tags: social media, twitter

Photo credit: One of Cebu Pacific's regional planes. Marlon E / Flickr

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