Need to reach your airline? Do it on Instagram not X or Facebook

Anyone who’s ever been stranded due to a delayed or canceled flight knows how frustrating it is to stay on call center hold when hundreds of others are also trying to reach the airline.

One of the most extreme examples in recent history is the Southwest Airlines  (LUV)  2022 holiday meltdown — after the airline’s booking system software broke down and led to the cancellation of 75% of all domestic flights on the day after Christmas — some passengers reported being on hold for six hours before they could reach a worker who could help them get home. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stepped in and called Southwest’s handling of the situation “unacceptable.”

Related: U.S. government says Southwest Airlines seriously messed up

Often lacking the staff to serve the number of travelers who want to reach them by phone, airlines will encourage customers to reach out to them on various social media platforms. Looking at social performance and response rates at U.S. and global airlines, social media analytics company Emplifi calculated that 27% of the questions travelers asked on Meta  (META) ‘s Instagram received a response compared to 24% on X (formerly known as Twitter) and 20% on fellow Meta brand Facebook. 

The data is in: ‘Sentiment of customer comments is overwhelmingly positive’

While the 7% between three main platforms is not an enormous difference, Instagram is still the site where customers are most likely to find success reaching and getting what they need from an airline — the majority of those who talked to airlines on there in the last four years found the experience “overwhelmingly” positive. For Facebook and X, that number was respectively 34% and 15%.

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This refers both to the overall sentiment of the comment and whether the interaction answered the concern with which the customer wrote in. The statistics looks at conversations from 2022 to 2024 while Emplifi has been tracking this data since 2020.

In the last year, airlines have also been warning customers of scammers creating fake X accounts in order to impersonate them while the social media platform has not been taking them down fast enough to prevent some customers from falling prey to various scams.

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When it comes to dissatisfied customers, ‘airlines need to listen and respond’

“Airline brands take a lot of heat online, but our data shows the sentiment of customer comments on Instagram is overwhelmingly positive – even on Facebook and X, sentiment has remained primarily neutral for the last five years,” Emplifi CEO Susan Ganeshan said in a statement.

Of course, the numbers also show that the majority of those who will try to contact an airline online will end up logging off without reaching anyone at all — that and the often automated and impersonal responses that some customers have been getting from AI software are often behind the above-mentioned mockery to which airlines are often subject to over their social media strategy.

“Airline brands need to listen and respond – tracking customers and their service needs on social media networks,” Ganeshan said further. “By prioritizing customer care on social platforms, it encourages brand loyalty and helps drive profits.”

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