New York, August 21, 2023 – Emplifi, the leading customer engagement platform, today released a comprehensive analysis of social media activity for global airline brands, focusing on customer engagement KPIs for X (the company formerly known as Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram. The goal was to better understand how airline brands are leveraging social media to handle customer care during a year of extreme growth. Emplifi found the airline industry has a solid response time to customer care inquiries conducted over social platforms, but that’s only if they do respond. Emplifi’s data revealed that, on average, only 25% of customer questions posted in comments on an airline’s public posts receive responses.
Not only are airline brands failing to address customer questions on their social accounts, they are experiencing a significant dip in positive sentiment on X. When looking at the most mentioned airline brands on X, Qatar Airways wins the top spot.
After being deeply impacted by the pandemic, the travel sector is making massive strides toward recouping losses and re-establishing its financial stability. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has reported an impressive surge in airline ticket revenue, reaching nearly record-breaking levels of $805 billion for the year 2023. However, challenges persist, particularly in customer service—a key area of business that has major implications for airline brands. With 86% of consumers willing to abandon a once-trusted brand after just two negative customer experiences, airlines especially are under increasing pressure to provide seamless and stress-free travel experiences.
With so much activity happening across the travel industry, Emplifi conducted an extensive analysis of social media accounts owned by global airline brands to gauge customer engagement rates across X, Instagram, and Facebook, between January, 2020 to July, 2023.
Twitter, Now Known as X, Dominated by Negative Sentiment Directed at Airlines
The stress of air travel often leads passengers to seek rapid solutions via social media and X has been a critical source of real-time customer support for airlines. Interestingly, negative sentiment in public comments towards global airline brands on the platform has remained consistent, hovering between 31% and 36% between the peak of the pandemic in 2020 all the way into 2023.
While negative sentiment has remained at the same level for nearly three years, the more notable finding is that positive sentiment on public airline tweets has actually decreased by 21% in 2023 compared to 2022.
Response Rate Shows Improvement, but Stagnation Persists
While airlines have implemented social care strategies, there has been limited progress in the post-pandemic era. Following the turbulence of COVID-19, 2021 witnessed airlines achieving their best response rate to user queries, averaging 27% across platforms (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter). This was the largest jump in percentage of customer responses, up 22.6%.
However, the percentage of questions answered on social media platforms has stagnated in 2023. On average, only 25% of public questions asked in the comments on a brand’s post receive responses, leaving a substantial 75% unanswered.
While Most Questions Go Unanswered, Response Times are Fast
When compared to other industries, the airline industry falls on the lower end of the social care spectrum. For example, in terms of social care, the telecom industry is the top-performing industry on Facebook and X — the airline industry answers 40% fewer questions, on average, compared to telecom companies.
Though a majority of questions go unanswered, the airline industry does excel in response-time speed on X (1.2 hours) and Facebook (4.8 hours), second only to the telecommunications industry.
Shift in Customer Questions Via Social Media
In response to the pandemic’s disruptions, the number of questions posed to airlines via social media surged, aligning with lockdowns and travel restrictions in early 2020. Remarkably, the peak questions during the pandemic gradually diminished in the summer months of 2023. July marked the lowest number of average questions (17 for the month) directed at airlines via X, while February experienced the highest number of average questions (38 for the month) worldwide.
Most Mentioned Airlines on X (Twitter) in 2023
Qatar Airlines (534,250 mentions) took the lead for 2023, garnering the highest number of mentions on X worldwide thus far. United States-based airlines followed close behind: United Airlines (243,865 mentions), American Airlines (213,357 mentions), and Delta (202,769 mentions).
While brands recognize the importance of top-tier customer service, staying aligned with rapidly evolving expectations is a challenge," remarked Emplifi CMO, Zarnaz Arlia. "The airline industry, in particular, needs constant refinement of their social care strategy. Our analysis shows there's room for improvement. By prioritizing customer care on social platforms, airlines not only meet customers where they are but also foster loyalty, encouraging advocacy and, in the end, driving profits."
You can find Emplifi’s full report on airline brands’ social media engagement trends here.
Comments made to brands from 107,346 brands on Facebook and 12,540 on X, formerly Twitter were analyzed from January 01 - July 30th, 2020-23. No direct messages were analyzed as this is a private metric that is unavailable. Industries with less than 50 profiles in the sample were excluded. Only user comments including "?" are considered as questions.