Larger Airlines Get Social-Media Hate

(Chicago Tribune/TNS) - People on social media love to hate airlines, and none more than the world’s largest — American Airlines and United Airlines.

In an analysis of tweets in 2014 and through this spring, 47 percent of posts about five large U.S. airlines were negative, while positive comments accounted for just 20 percent, according to a recent report by Crimson Hexagon, a social-media analysis software firm in Boston. The rest of the posts were labeled as neutral.

“More consumers are taking to social media to discuss these airline brands, ask general and specific travel questions, and express their satisfaction — or more likely, their dissatisfaction — towards these brands,” said the “Analyzing Customer Relations in the Airline Industry” report.

Since January 2012, the five U.S. airlines have seen a 209 percent increase in mentions on Twitter. The other airlines examined were Delta, Southwest and JetBlue.

United and American had the highest rate of negative posts, with 56 percent of each carrier’s mentions being negative.

Of the posts about Chicago-based United, 26 percent were negative about customer service, while the remaining negative posts were about airline delays, luggage problems and general issues.

The report singled out Fort Worth, Texas-based American for being especially stilted with its social-media presence.

“Twitter was designed to be a social platform where relatively informal conversation takes place, yet American Airlines has not adapted its customer service methods to fit this social setting,” the report said. “The company’s replies to customers are very formal and do not come off as personal.”

JetBlue, based in Long Island City, N.Y., which the report said uses less formal responses that appear more personalized, got the highest rate of positive comments, with one-third being complimentary.

“One of the key takeaways of this study is that brands need to adopt a more fluid and informal language when communicating with customers over social media,” the report said.

Despite the negative mentions, using Twitter can be good for airlines, the report said.

“Social media is a great tool for strengthening and maintaining customer relationships, and more specifically, for repairing a damaged consumer’s loyalty,” it said. “Meaningful engagement with customers on social media by listening and responding to their posts is vital for airlines that want to improve customer satisfaction and retention.”

By number of social-media posts alone, American Airlines led, with nearly 600,000 posts from January 2014 to March 2015. Next was United at about 400,000 posts and Delta with about 240,000.