New Research From Unmetric Uncovers Airline Industry Social Media Trends

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Promotional offers, on-board facilities, and business class features were popular themes airline brands promoted on social media in 2016.

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American Airlines continues to lead the way in terms of customer service on Twitter. In 2016, it responded to 45% of its 833,000 mentions with an average reply time of 35 minutes.

Unmetric, the leading brand-focused social media intelligence company, today released new research that shows how 15 North American airline brands have embraced social media and the trends that have emerged in the industry.

The companies analyzed in Unmetric’s report across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest include: AeroMexico, Air Canada, Alaska, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian Airlines, Jetblue, Southwest, Spirit, United, Virgin America, Volaris, and WestJet. The insights from the report were the resulted from analysis of 260 million user interactions across 118,000 pieces of brand content.

Unmetric Discover, a searchable database of over 500,000,000 pieces of brand content, surfaced the most popular topics that North American airline brands talked about on social media in 2016. Promotions were used 8,400 times and comprise a bulk of airlines content due to high engagement. For example, WestJet's inspired contest encouraged people to tag friends and received over 25,000 comments. Other popular topics included on-board facilities (used 6,800 times), and business class (business class and business lounge used 5,000 times combined).

United Airlines’ PR crisis in April that arose from a passenger being dragged off a plane generated a lot of social media activity. The day after the incident, United's CEO released a statement that many believed fell short in terms of apology. Facebook users left over 130,000 comments on this post, making it one of the most commented brand posts ever. Over 143,000 people 'reacted' to the Facebook post, and 90% of them with the 'angry' emoji.

As of the end of May 2017, United's share price rose to an all-time high and user interactions fell back to pre-March 2017 levels, suggesting that the crisis was well behind them.

Other Key Trends Include:

  • User mentions of airlines are on the rise.

On Twitter, airlines fielded an average of 712 mentions per day, representing an increase of 141% in user mentions per airline between 2013 and 2016.

  • Response times are getting longer.

In 2012, airlines responded to 65% of tweets in just 15 minutes with an average reply time of 61 minutes. In 2016, just 56% of users received replies within 15 minutes and the average reply time increased to 89 minutes. American Airlines continues to lead the way in terms of customer service on Twitter. In 2016, it responded to 45% of its 833,000 mentions with an average reply time of 35 minutes.

  • Airlines have started to apologize more.

In 2016, 14% of all replies sent by airlines contained an apology. This percentage has been on the increase since 2013 when just 12% of replies contained an apology.

  • Total Facebook content is down, Instagram is up.

Airlines are posting less content on Facebook than ever before. In 2016, airlines posted an average of 10 posts per week. On Instagram, in 2013, airlines posted an average of 13 posts, and in 2016, this increased to 189 posts - a growth of 1,350%.

The full report with additional data and insights is available as a free download here.

About Unmetric
Unmetric, an enterprise solution for branded content analysis and discovery, harvests social brand signals to help digital marketers, analysts, and content strategists to analyze, discover and track branded content in order to create better content and campaigns of their own. Hundreds of the world’s largest and respected brands and digital agencies including American Airlines, The Chicago Bulls, Tiffany & Co., General Motors, GroupM, and Ogilvy use Unmetric to access AI-powered insights from the owned channels of over 100,000 qualified brands across more than 30 sectors on all major social networks including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. The company was founded in 2011 and is headquartered in New York City with offices in Chennai, India and the U.S. For more information, visit

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Peter Moran
Indicate Media
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