Skift Take

Quality over quantity is the golden rule when it comes to airlines' social media. Emirates and Etihad have routes that reach far beyond those of its peers, but carriers that consistently listen to their customers build their social influence much faster.

With global ad campaigns starring international sports stars, is it any surprise that Turkish Airlines‘ Twitter followers are more than double the next closest Middle Eastern airline?

What may be surprising is that Turkish Airlines is one of the least active and engaged of its regional peers on social media, and that airlines like Nasair and Jazeera Airways have a better grasp on Twitter than growing global giants like Etihad and Emirates.

Using numbers collected from SkiftSocial, we looked at how and how often airlines based in the Middle East tweet and talk to their passengers. In some cases carriers have accounts in multiple languages or targeted to one geographic area. We focus on airlines’ English-language Twitter accounts.

Editor’s Note: We’ve gone with the most liberal definition of “Middle East” here to include airlines in Turkey and Egypt.

Airlines’ Twitter Followers

The Middle East airlines with the most followers on Twitter and most active accounts will surprise readers who immediately think of Qatar, Etihad, and Emirates as the big three.

The most followed airlines are actually a mix of flag carriers like Royal Jordanian Air and low-cost airlines like Kuwait-based Jazeera Airways.

Saudi Arabia’s airlines perform particularly well in comparison to other nations. Its flag carrier Saudia and low-cost airline Nasair are among the top five airlines with the most Twitter followers.

The number of tweets an airline’s account posts is not proportional to its number of followers suggesting that other factors including traditional marketing and geographical reach also play a part in boosting social following.

The following chart outlines the number of followers and daily tweet rate for 16 Middle Eastern airlines:

Airlines Twitter Followers Daily Tweet Rate
Turkish Airlines (Turkey) 327,869 0.9
Saudia Airlines (Saudi Arabia) 138,360 12
Qatar Airways (Qatar) 104,849 13.8
Nasair (Saudi Arabia) 83,003 18.9
Jazeera Airways (Kuwait) 36,644 1.3
Royal Jordanian Airlines (Jordan) 34,341 12.8
Etihad (UAE) 25,916 2.9
Oman Air (Oman) 18,724 3.1
Gulf Air (Bahrain) 15,882 1.2
Egyptair (Egypt) 13,717 11.1
Emirates (Dubai) 13,471 0
El Al (Israel) 10,106 0.8
Tunisair (Tunisia) 3,254 0.6
FlyDubai (Dubai) 2,032 0
RAK Airways (UAE) 1,593 0.7

Choosing to Listen or Ignore the Customer

Engagement is arguably the most important measure of an airline’s social media savviness as flyers are turning to the platform with questions, complaints, and praise. Answering those Tweets quickly and effectively is the true mark of a successful social account.

Ninety percent of the 179 tweets that Royal Jordanian Air sent in the past two weeks were retweets and replies. Saudia Airlines, Nasair, and Oman Air also replied and retweeted with more than 80 percent of their posts in the past two weeks.

Airlines with very low engagement rates often use Twitter as a soap box where they send out marketing messages and updates. They do not embrace the opportunity to use Twitter as a customer service live stream for today’s digital travelers.

Etihad, Turkish Airlines, and El Al are among the airlines with the lowest engagement rates despite their global growth and popularity.

The below chart orders the 16 airlines by how many retweets and replies they post in proportion to their usual tweets:

REAL: Use this one.

Airlines Opt Out

Emirates and FlyDubai have thousands of followers, but haven’t sent a single Tweet in the past two weeks.

Emirates posted a single “Coming Soon!” message when it launched its account in September 2012 and has since stayed silent to its more than 13,000 followers.

It’s possible Emirates chose to focus on other platforms like Facebook where it has almost two million followers and posts an average of 18 times a week, or YouTube where it has 119 videos.

FlyDubai avoids both social networks with the following note:

This is flydubai’s official Twitter/Facebook account which is not active. To contact the airline please go to  or call +971 4 231 1000.

The airline is consciously choosing not to participate in the online discussion, but smart enough to protect its brand name in the meantime.

FlyDubai and Emirates did not respond to Skift’s questions regarding its social media policies.

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Tags: emirates air, etihad, qatar, skiftsocial, social media, turkish airlines, twitter

Photo credit: Saudia Boeing 777 jet sits at Washington Dulles International Airport. Daniel Betts / Flickr

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