Airlines live and die by word of mouth, research shows. And lately, that word of mouth on social media and offline has been mostly bad — with one bright spot on the horizon, which is Southwest Airlines.
The airline ranked No. 1 in a study released today by Engagement Labs. The numbers, tallied under the moniker “TotalSocial,” show “the top-performing airlines in the U.S. with respect to consumer conversations, for the last six months.”
Southwest bumped JetBlue out of the top spot for two reasons — Southwest got some good press for its customer treatment and JetBlue received bad comments. (Engagement Labs did tally the results prior to JetBlue capping fares at $99 for Hurricane Irma evacuees from Florida, which Target Marketing detailed in an article published on Sept. 8.)
Here are the top U.S. airlines by Engagement Labs’ TotalSocial ranking:
- Southwest Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
The penultimate spot for United may not be a surprise, considering the airline hasn’t yet erased its reputation for a bloodied passenger being dragged from one of its planes. As a response to the United incident, Southwest gained consumer adulation by ending its overbooking policy, Engagement Labs says in the research announcement.
“Lately, it seems as if every major airline has been in the news regarding major flight delays, issues with customer service or inappropriate airline employees,” said Ed Keller, CEO of Engagement Labs, in the announcement. “However, while there has been negative conversation about the industry as a whole, Southwest Airlines has ‘flipped the script’ and sticks out from its peers in a positive way with a growing TotalSocial score. The company does exceptionally well due to its ability to focus efforts on its two most important audiences — customers and employees. One notable example was when a Southwest Airlines passenger with cancer had their luggage misplaced — including the medication they needed for chemotherapy – and one of the airline’s employees drove to the passenger’s house to personally deliver the suitcase in the middle of the night. It’s clear that Southwest’s customer service goes above and beyond.”
Engagement Labs notes that airline leaders need to pay more attention to negative brand sentiment, because consumers are doing research — including looking at reviews — before booking flights.
What do you think, marketers?
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Related story: Airlines Lower Prices for Irma Evacuees