Skift Take

Holidays are a stressful time for most travelers. Airlines took the opportunity to be present by introducing their crew members, showing customer appreciation, and entertaining travelers.

During peak holiday travel season, airlines focused on emotional and familiar content that revolved around coming home and Santa.

For the first half of the month, airlines published discounted fares and in the second half, pulled on travelers’ heartstrings. Going home — or not being able to go home — for the holidays made this time bittersweet. And in the case of AirAsia Flight 8501 passengers and their family and friends, a tragedy. Despite all this holiday spirit and anticipation for the new year prevailed.

Four of the airlines below are U.S. domestic low-cost carriers. The remaining represent international airlines from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany, and Switzerland.

The top ten, below, are calculated using our Skift Score, which takes into account performance on an absolute basis, as well as relative to within a company’s specific industry. Comparing metrics across companies and travel sectors provides an intelligent measure of real-time competitive edge.

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Top 10 Airlines by Skift Score on SkiftIQ

Airlines December 2014 Skift Score Twitter Follows Facebook Likes Youtube Video Views Instagram Followers
KLM 945 1,580,576 8,171,109 67,329,798 80,737
American Airlines 863 1,015,283 1,817,434 4,452,398 97,567
British Airways 857 596,728 1,685,416 25,826,035 99,503
Southwest Airlines 857 1,790,003 4,547,589 10,508,421 90,074
United 831 592,144 782,996 4,997,158 54,600
Qantas Airways 826 239,744 603,437 11,336,936 61,196
Virgin America 820 635,623 609,037 15,558,563 54,829
Air France FR 818 381,714 4,935,196 2,826,504 74,785
Lufthansa 808 116,933 1,820,164 6,399,456 77,963
SWISS 808 109,224 592,415 1,774,849 43,520

Source: SkiftIQ

Although KLM continues to dominate this sector, it is important to mention the brave efforts of AirAsia’s CEO by tweeting his thoughts and sympathies from his personal Twitter account and the social media team’s continuous updates on the company’s Twitter and Facebook Page. In addition to the posts, they changed the cover images on its Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channel with #togetherwestand to show solidarity. It also uploaded this cover image to Instagram as a snap on December 30, and has not ‘grammed since then. According to Topsy, the sentiment around #AirAsia8501 in the last 30 days, is 41 out of 100, with 50 being neutral and 100 being positive.

Qantas made it to the list and led two monthly regulars, Virgin American and Air France. Among the other newcomers to the list, Lufthansa and SWISS (Swiss International Air Line) tied at 9th place with a Skift Score of 808. In the first week of December, Lufthansa’s employee strike about retirement benefits affected flights leaving from Frankfurt and Munich airport and raised its Twitter activity.

SWISS ramped up its marketing efforts on all four networks. It announced its Instagram employee takeover effort on Facebook, produced an event at Zurich Airport that required travelers to collectively tweet-to-unlock a surprise present in a large box-like structure. Once the level of tweets was high enough, the structure revealed an ‘All I Want for Christmas’ cover performance. These moments were captured on video and was shared on YouTube.

United and Qantas were the only airlines that had a series of pieces created to reach families.


Now that organic reach has fizzled, the number of posts and frequency has slowed down. The ten airlines posted an average of 25 posts per month on Facebook. Air France was the most anemic brand with eight posts; Virgin America the most prolific with 50 posts; and Qantas at dead center with 20 posts. 7 out of 10 brands posted less than one post per day in December.

The posts that sparked the most interactions were curated user generated content Instagram snaps that took form as photo albums and slideshows in video format. KLM’s content included a link about its collaboration with Airbnb on an atypical accommodation; a direct upload of an animated video to wish its audience a great Christmas; and links to its ‘Citizens of the Airport’ ongoing feature on its website.

American Airlines published 21 posts that were mostly about its employees. For example, a video of a pilot and a boy serendipitously connecting over a foggy window finger drawing in an airport terminal; a candid video of a flight attendant with a ukulele singing ‘Royals’; two separate photos of two flight attendants with a quote about the perk of working at American and being able to fly home; and a group photo of three staff members being surprise and delighted by a flyer at the check-in desk. On the topic of employment, Virgin America visibly pushed posts about their team as well, but for a different purpose: They are looking to hire more people to join their crew.


Southwest Airlines bought AirTran in May 2011 and last month, the latter was fully absorbed. Brand integrations definitely raised questions about previously booked flights during this time frame, baggage allowances, and points transfers. Considering this change took place during the climax of passengers in transit, its tweets and replies rose by approximately 20 percent, while the other airlines’ average increase was at 10 percent.

Although, Virgin America did not reply as much last month, its community on Twitter was quite active. Their social media team tweeted and retweeted a variety of video format content — directly uploaded or linked — like Vines, YouTube, stop-motion, gifs that showed in-flight experiences and hoped to get flyers in the Christmas mood.


In mid-December, Instagram massacred fake followers. This correction was felt by celebrities, influencers, and brands. However, when looking at the change in Followers from November to December, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Air France, Qantas, Virgin America, United Airlines, only lost an average of three percent of their followers. British Airways and KLM lost even less. Needless to say, there’s not much for these brands to recover from.

British Airways’ Instagram account is the largest and has the most likes per post. Their team book-ended December content with the same mashup 2014 video. The most liked images were photos of its livery from flyers.


Holiday-themed videos garnered the most views across the board. When looking at each of the brands’ historical video views, only SWISS’ video about the tweet-to-open-the-present event at Zurich Airport appeared as notable content in December. However, Qantas’ ‘Welcome Home’ series featured girls reconnecting with their families — not viewable in the U.S. — and ‘Insider Travel’ series that feature two videos with two Aussie influencers-slash-ambassadors — model Jess Hart and singer Samantha Jade — to separately talk about their travel picks, garnered decent views.

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Tags: air france, airasia, airlines, american airlines, british airways, facebook, instagram, klm, lufthansa, qantas, social media, southwest airlines, swiss international air line, twitter, united airlines, virgin america, youtube

Photo Credit: Cover image of AirAsia's Facebook Page to remember the victims of Flight 8501. AirAsia / Facebook