Airlines that don’t respond to customer comments on social media could be doing long-term harm to their brand and their business.
That’s one of the findings in the latest J.D. Power and Associates consumer survey on satisfaction with U.S. airlines.
The poll of more than 11,000 air travelers found that social media postings have become the “feedback tool of choice” for passengers. Some 21 percent of business travelers in the survey said they had posted a comment about their airline trip on social media, and so did 8 percent of leisure flyers. And almost three-quarters of all those comments were positive.
“When an airline responds to any social media post – whether it’s positive or negative – there is a noteworthy 121-point lift in passenger satisfaction” regarding that airline, J.D. Power said. The company rates airlines in its survey results on a 1,000-point scale.
It said that the social platform most commonly used by passengers is Facebook (81 percent), followed by Twitter (41 percent). Apparently the takeaway from these numbers is that customers really like to know that their airline listened to them and cared enough to reply. And they resent it when they’re ignored.
Besides having their posts ignored, there are a couple of other things that really bug travelers, the survey found. One is insufficient overhead bin space, cited by 14 percent of respondents who said they had ”an issue” with this. And when they do, their overall satisfaction level with the airline drops by 82 points.
“The problem is inversely related to age, as travelers in younger generations are more likely to experience a problem with overhead storage than are older travelers,” J.D. Power noted (possibly because older travelers have learned through bitter experience what will fit and what won’t).
The other thing is getting bumped from a flight. The levels of involuntary denied boardings have reached “historic lows,” J.D. Power observed, but when they do happen, “they have the greatest negative influence on overall satisfaction.”
Speaking of overall satisfaction, you’d think all the publicity these days about shrinking seat pitch, passenger misbehavior, fights with flight attendants, overcrowded planes and gate areas, etc. would mean a significant drop in passengers’ happiness with the air travel experience.
But J.D. Power found just the opposite: Overall satisfaction with the airlines in the latest survey jumped by 30 points over the previous year, to 756 points, “continuing a trend of steady performance increases that began in 2013.”
The company divides airlines into “traditional” and “low-cost,” although those divisions aren’t what they used to be. The highest-rated “traditional” airline was Alaska (for the tenth year in a row) with a score of 765, followed by Delta at 758. Ranking highest among “low-cost” carriers was Southwest at 807, closely followed by JetBlue at 803.