U.S. Airlines Ranked by Twitter Sentiment

Last updated on 08/31/2021

The way travelers communicate has changed over the years. Social media is an easy-to-use tool that can be quite powerful, particularly when discussing a user’s viewpoint or experience. Because of this, tracking the data around particular companies or brands is simple when using social media listening tools. Twitter in particular is an extensive resource of customer opinions and satisfaction.

Using sentiment analysis, which uses artificial intelligence to detect the emotional tone of tweets, we identified which airlines received the most negative mentions.

In 2019, we monitored over 96,000 tweets mentioning the nine largest U.S. airlines over a two-week period. In 2021, we analyzed an additional 25,000 tweets to assess how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected rankings.

It is important to note that any tweet detected as “neutral” was not included in the analysis.

U.S. Airline Twitter Sentiment Analysis

  • Positive
  • Negative
Airline
% Change Negative From 2019
% Negative
% Change Positive From 2019
% Positive
Spirit Airlines
69.0%
31.0%
Frontier Airlines
63.7%
36.3%
American Airlines
55.8%
44.2%
United Airlines
49.5%
50.5%
JetBlue Airways
49.5%
50.5%
Delta Air Lines
48.7%
51.3%
Alaska Airlines
37.9%
62.1%
Allegiant Air
35.6%
64.4%
Southwest Airlines
30.1%
69.9%
Frontier Airlines
-4.76%
58.94%
-12.75%
23.55%
Spirit Airlines
-10.45%
58.55%
-10.34%
20.66%
Allegiant Air
17.87%
53.47%
-38.20%
26.20%
American Airlines
-3.15%
52.65%
-17.41%
26.79%
JetBlue Airways
2.74%
52.24%
-25.03%
25.47%
Southwest Airlines
14.99%
45.09%
-37.90%
32.00%
Delta Air Lines
-4.19%
44.51%
-21.48%
29.82%
United Airlines
-7.17%
42.33%
-18.59%
31.91%
Hawaiian Air
-
34.17%
-
35.60%
Alaska Airlines
-5.94%
31.96%
-19.34%
42.76%

Alaska Airlines had the highest positive rating with 42.76% of their mentions being positive in tone. However, the pandemic has taken a toll, as our 2019 calculation showed 62.1% of their Twitter mentions as positive.

It should be noted that, since the start of the pandemic, all airlines have had a significant reduction in the number of positive mentions and some a large increase in negative mentions.

Southwest Airlines, who came out on top in 2019 with 69.9% positive mentions, had just 32% of mentions as positive.

Spirit Airlines, who had previously received over 69% negative mentions, have managed to reduce their share of negative mentions to 58.55%. But this is still the second highest overall.

The most negatively tweeted airline in the pandemic was Frontier Airlines with 58.94% negative mentions.

We wanted to find out exactly what was causing these negative mentions for each airline. Our research targeted common complaints put forth by customers including delays, cancellations, poor customer service, lost luggage, uncomfortable seats and bad food. This gave us an idea of what negative experiences could be expected by each airline and what each airline may want to consider as a priority to address moving forward.

We also added common complaints specifically associated with flying during the COVID-19 pandemic including masks, COVID-19 testing requirements, social distancing and mandatory paperwork to fill out.

Southwest Airlines came out on top with 69.9% of their mentions being positive, closely followed by Allegiant Air with 64.40%, Spirit Airlines worryingly received over 69% negative mentions.

We wanted to find out exactly what was causing these negative mentions for each airline. For our research we targeted stereotypical complaints put forth by customers including delays, cancellations, poor customer service, lost luggage, uncomfortable seats and bad food. This gave us an idea of what bad experiences could be expected by each airline and what each airline needs to consider a priority concern.

The Top Concerns While Flying By Airline

  • Delay
  • Cancel
  • Customer Service
  • Luggage
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Masks
  • Refunds
  • Money
  • Seats
  • Food
Airline
Delay
Cancel
Customer Service
Luggage
Money
Seats
Food
COVID-19 Testing
Masks
Refunds
United Airlines
23.58%
11.15%
6.95%
2.39%
2.23%
1.81%
0.14%
JetBlue Airways
23.00%
7.23%
4.36%
1.43%
1.90%
1.84%
1.29%
Allegiant Air
20.59%
6.18%
6.76%
1.47%
2.96%
0.89%
1.48%
Delta Air Lines
19.45%
9.30%
5.96%
2.01%
0.82%
1.43%
1.26%
Frontier Airlines
19.38%
13.09%
8.86%
2.31%
2.05%
1.28%
0.90%
Spirit Airlines
16.69%
18.50%
7.11%
2.05%
3.52%
0.85%
0.89%
Alaska Airlines
16.18%
8.24%
4.62%
2.61%
1.31%
2.41%
1.81%
Southwest Airlines
15.84%
10.63%
4.50%
2.30%
15.98%
15.68%
3.25%
American Airlines
14.15%
9.94%
6.73%
2.07%
3.38%
2.53%
0.62%
Spirit Airlines
12.05%
9.33%
4.80%
1.06%
0.57%
0.25%
0.04%
Frontier Airlines
9.53%
6.65%
3.71%
1.35%
0.47%
0.44%
0.15%
American Airlines
8.67%
9.53%
6.18%
1.23%
0.18%
1.19%
3.03%
United Airlines
8.32%
10.01%
5.39%
1.14%
0.27%
0.37%
3.06%
JetBlue Airways
6.83%
5.43%
1.17%
0.61%
0.00%
3.26%
0.13%
Delta Air Lines
6.79%
5.56%
8.48%
1.46%
0.15%
0.42%
0.23%
Alaska Airlines
6.67%
7.19%
4.53%
0.78%
0.27%
0.84%
2.98%
Allegiant Air
4.32%
5.63%
5.42%
2.60%
0.18%
0.51%
2.20%
Southwest Airlines
2.93%
2.27%
3.56%
0.05%
0.00%
0.63%
0.15%
Hawaiian Air
2.11%
0.85%
1.88%
0.45%
0.27%
0.90%
0.04%

Spirit Airlines had the highest percentage of negative tweets (12.05%) related to delays. However, this is a reduction from 2019, where they previously had 16.69% of their negative tweets about delays.

Interestingly, complaints relating to COVID-19 specifically were very low across all airlines. This indicates that, overall, all airlines seem to be upholding their new protocols relatively well.

JetBlue had the highest share of complaints around Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and mask protocols (3.26%). However, these still represent a significantly low number of complaints overall. The majority of complaints for JetBlue were associated with delays (6.83%) and cancellations (5.43%).

The Top Concerns While Flying Overall

Flying Concerns
Percentage Of Tweets
Cancellations
7.19%
Delays
6.67%
Customer Service
4.53%
Refunds
2.98%
General COVID-19 Concerns
1.28%
Masks
0.84%
Luggage
0.78%
Hidden Charges/Costs
0.73%
Tests
0.27%
Cleanliness
0.19%
Covid-19 Forms
0.04%
Social Distancing
0.02%

Across all airlines, cancellations and delays remain to be the most popular complaints in the COVID-19 era. Beyond general COVID-19 related concerns (any complaint that included the word ‘covid’ within it), masks were the biggest complaint related to the coronavirus.

Overall, however, COVID-19 concerns were significantly low, indicating that travelers had confidence in their safety when flying either domestically or internationally.

To conclude, while we cannot use this data to presume that one airline has more shortcomings than another, it certainly gives us an idea of possible opportunities for improvement. Understanding what each airline struggles with may help travelers manage their expectations of the experience each airline provides.

A key takeaway from our research is that while all airlines may be getting an increase in criticism across social media overall, the number of complaints related to COVID-19 protocols are actually very low.

For travelers looking for a hassle-free experience, Alaska Airlines may be the most likely to provide this, based solely on social media temperament at the time of publication. Other high performing airlines include Hawaiian Airlines and 2019’s winner Southwest Airlines. Travelers may also want to consider the high number of complaints regarding experiences with Frontier and Spirit Airlines as there may be some room for improvement with these services.

*Data collected from Brand24

United Airlines had the highest proportion of negative tweets (23.58%) that related to delays, while 11.15% were about cancellations, a combined total of 34.73% for these two categories.

While every airline experiences delays and cancellations due to factors out of their control, it seems United Airlines and Spirit Airlines are particularly substandard in the way they handle customers in these situations.

Interestingly, Southwest Airlines (who received the least negative mentions overall) see their biggest complaint is about money, while the rest of the airlines have limited complaints about this. Furthermore, Southwest Airlines received the highest proportion of negative mentions for keywords regarding seating (15.7%), which may be due to their policy on not assigning seats.

To conclude, while we cannot infer that this means one airline has more issues than another, it certainly gives us an idea of what each airline struggles with the most.

By understanding what each airline struggles with we can manage our own expectations of each airline. If you are looking to prioritize customer service for example, it is logical to expect Frontier Airlines may struggle with providing quality customer service, but it is likely their seating is comfortable, and food is satisfactory. Knowing this prior to flying with Frontier will likely improve the overall experience as there is little to no expectation of quality customer care. Alternatively, if you are looking to experience high quality care it would be wise to avoid this airline entirely.

Overall if you are looking for a hassle-free experience, Southwest Airlines are the most likely to bring you this based on social media reaction. On the other hand, flying with Spirit Airlines may lead to a negative experience in some form.

*Data collected from Brand24