Southwest High, Spirit Low: Airlines Ranked By Social Media


There are lots of ways for customers to rank airlines but few are as rapid and unsparing as social media. Just ask Spirit Airlines, which was noted as having nearly 75 percent of its mentions on Twitter containing “negative” sentiment, compared to Southwest, which saw the same percentage of positive comments.

These conclusions are the result of travel insurance company InsureMyTrip analyzing some 96,000 tweets between Aug. 9 and 23 and reducing the overall results to a “percentage of positive mentions” and “percentage of negative mentions.”

Budget airline Spirit, as we mentioned, earned the worst treatment at the hands of social-media users, with Southwest the best. In overall ranking from worst to best were: Spirit, Frontier, American (at a 44/56 percent good/bad split), then United, JetBlue, and Delta at about the equal good/bad mark, then Alaska, Allegiant, and Southwest with the lowest percentage of negative tweets among those surveyed.

The survey looked a bit deeper into the reasons for customer dissatisfaction. United and JetBlue were worst for flight delays, at about 23 percent each, with American and Southwest the two best. Spirit led Frontier and United for complaints about flight cancellations, with Allegiant and JetBlue the two best. Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant were the top three dinged for poor customer service. Finally, all airlines were nearly equal on the subject of baggage handling, with Alaska the worst and JetBlue the best but just 1.2 percent separating best from worst.

It wasn’t all acceptance speeches for Southwest executives, though. The airline was dinged dramatically for its open-seating policy–with 15.7 percent of the tweets in the survey period complaining about “seating” in general. (It’s not clear if the airline’s open-seating policy, its tiered boarding process, or both, were at the root of these complaints.) By comparison, American and Alaska got seating complaints only about 2.5 percent of the time. Finally, complaints about airline food were comparatively rare (because, well, airline food is comparatively rare these days), though Southwest saw 3.3 percent of the tweets complaining about its food, compared to 1.8 percent for Alaska, the next highest. Apparently, peanuts get you only so much love on social media.

KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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