Which Airlines Are the Speediest on Twitter— And Which Ones Are a #SocialFail?

We all go into flying with a brave face, but there’s usually some sort of delay, cancellation or mechanical error that makes you want to scream into a pillow.

In those moments of frustration it’s nice to have a friendly airline representative talk you through what do next. And for many of us, Twitter has turned into a quick and easy way to air grievances and get traveling advice straight from the source.

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But which airline has the most engaged Twitter account? In other words, who will respond the fastest when you’re in a bind? To answer this question we decided to conduct a little experiment.  We sent the same tweet to Jet Blue, United, American, Southwest, Delta, US Airways, Alaska Air, Virgin America and Frontier and watched the clock to see how long it took each airline to respond. The tweet we sent simply said, “HELP! What is the number to your reservation line?”


To tweet or not to tweet. Is it even worth it? (Picture: Thinkstock)

In first place was Alaska Air with a 1 minute response time. This airline’s Twitter game is so sharp that they replied back faster than we could refresh the page. Tied for 2nd place were Jet Blue and Frontier Airlines with an impressive response time of 2 minutes. Well played.

US Airways took just 4 minutes to provide their reservation number. And with a respectable time of 7 minutes, Delta replied with a very detailed, 3-tweet-long answer.

Then it got interesting.

I personally tweeted American Airlines and twiddled my thumbs for a full 19 minutes before I heard back from the airline’s Twitter account. No, my tweet wasn’t an emergency, but after almost 20 minutes I started to feel stood up.

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United took 1 hour and 25 minutes before they answered and Virgin America doubled United’s performance with a 3-hour response time. Now, while I appreciate the effort by both parties, by the time they tweeted back, I would be passed out on a bench like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal.”

As for Southwest… well, they just never answered. [insert awkward silence here]

So what separates the best from the rest?

According to Jet Blue’s social media strategist Morgan Johnston, the key is treating Twitter like your girlfriend. “It’s really about listening and engaging smartly,” Johnston said. “We don’t want to add noise, but if it’s clear that a follower is looking for a response, we try to jump in and assist.”

In addition, at any given moment JetBlue has 2 to 3 people on duty responding and engaging on social media — something other airlines with longer response times might want to consider.

To be fair I also reached out to Southwest to inquire about their social media strategy. Communications Specialist Dan Landson said, "Customer service is very important to us. We have more than 100 million customers and there are a lot of tweets coming in. Our social care team does their best to prioritize and answer the most time sensitive tweets first."

Now the next time you’re in an airport dilemma, you’ll know which airline to tweet, and which airline not to tweet. Yes, we mean you, Southwest.

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