Social media has emerged as a way for people to find travel deals and keep tabs on their favorite airlines. Many air providers have seized on this new way to reach out to customers, whether it's replying to a customer service complaint or posting deals on Twitter, announcing routes on Facebook, or blogging about upcoming promotions. And in a time of reduced customer service access, the direct lines created through social media are even more vital to passengers.
For this category, we compared airlines' use of blogs, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, and other additional community components. Airlines using these outlets tend to be more accessible to customers, sometimes offer limited-time and exclusive sales, and show a more casual side that fosters brand loyalty. We looked at all U.S.-based airlines, quickly narrowing the field to five contenders embracing social media and online community initiatives: Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, and Virgin America.
Southwest emerged as the winner, with a presence in all social media categories and the additional bonus of a travel forum on its website. We think Southwest really has it right, offering a ton of personality and useful information through the Nuts About Southwest blog; conversation, photos, and polls with its more than 791,000 fans on Facebook at press time; Flickr photo pool with nearly 10,000 user-generated images; variety of posts and responses to users on Twitter; and singing flight attendants, commercials, and other videos on YouTube.
Passengers engaging with Southwest via these sites will find news, discounted rates, and even direct feedback from the company. And it's not just about what you get, but also what you give. Southwest loyalists can (and do) contribute their own photos and ideas, offer their opinions, and ask and answer passenger questions, creating a two-way street that's rare among airlines. And unlike many other contenders, Southwest features all its social media links on the airline homepage, so there's no frustrating digging around.
JetBlue was close behind, with more than 187,000 Facebook followers at press time; two Twitter accounts, one which is entirely devoted to exclusive Twitter sale fares ("Cheeps") released each Tuesday; a lively Flickr photo stream; and the Blue Tales blog.
Do you agree or disagree with our winner in this category? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!
Most Customer-Friendly Airline | Best Free Airline Perk | Best Coach-Class Experience | Best Value Airline | Best Value Destination | Best Hotel Loyalty Program | Best Rental Car Loyalty Program | Best Travel Rewards Card for Domestic Use | Best Travel Rewards Card for Overseas Use | Best Travel Rewards Card for ATM Use | Best Airline Website | Best Use of Social Media | Most Pet-Friendly Airline for Checked Pets | Most Pet-Friendly Airline for Carry-On Pets | Most Eco-Friendly Airline | Best Airport for Layovers | Best Airport for Connections