It’s no secret that the best airlines inspire serious brand loyalty. Major airline companies such as Delta and American Airlines boast more than 100 million loyalty program members and, for frequent flyers, this allegiance to their favorite airlines often translates into a powerful display of support on social media via follows, likes, comments, and shares.
But when it comes to social media performance, which airlines fly higher than the others? Taking a look at the numbers, we’ve identified four major airlines that stand out. Buckle up as we explore the top airlines on social and uncover how they’ve turned their online activity into a first-class experience.
First on our list? The airline acing it across the board: Hawaiian Airlines.
Four Airlines Excelling on Social Media in 2023
Best Overall: Hawaiian Airlines
In terms of social media engagement, Hawaiian Airlines soared above the competition. The airline scored engagement rates that surpassed the median of the travel industry on all four social media platforms we analyzed.
On TikTok, the airline achieved an impressive 8.88% engagement rate by follower, outshining the travel industry’s median of 7.43%. The story repeats on Instagram, where its 0.89% engagement rate was nearly double the industry median.
Particularly worth diving into is Hawaiian Airlines’ performance on Twitter and Facebook. The brand claimed the highest engagement among its peers on Twitter, earning an outstanding 0.12% engagement rate by follower, or 3.75x greater than the industry norm (0.032%).
Along with leveraging user-generated content (UGC), the airline saw success by embracing and showcasing the beauty of Hawaii and its culture. Case in point, the below tweet, which was a repost of a passenger’s aerial shot of the islands, was 52x more engaging than a typical tweet by travel brands.
Hawaiian Airlines’ efforts on Facebook tell a similar story, with a 0.22% engagement rate that’s 3.75x higher than the travel industry median of 0.088%. Top-performing posts on this social network reveal another key aspect of the airline’s strategy: adding a human touch to their content by spotlighting the workers who contribute to the Hawaiian Airlines experience. For instance, one post celebrating the airline’s first all-female, all-part Hawaiian pilot crew achieved a noteworthy 3.45% engagement rate.
Ultimately, what sets Hawaiian Airlines apart isn’t just the numbers but also its ability to build a community of fans who share a love for both the destination and the crew. As we’ve seen, its top-performing posts often feature gorgeous visuals of Hawaii or heartwarming tales about the people who make the Hawaiian Airlines experience unforgettable.
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Best on Facebook: United Airlines
Right on the tail of Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines snags second place on Facebook with an engagement rate of 0.2% — an impressive 2.3x greater than the travel industry’s median rate of 0.088%.
So, what makes the brand stand out on this social platform? United Airlines shines when showcasing its professionalism and state-of-the-art operations. From proud announcements about new routes to behind-the-scenes glimpses of their top-notch training facilities to information about the latest aviation tech, posts that emphasize United’s expertise as an airline routinely get high levels of engagement.
A scroll through their Facebook Page and you’ll see users liking and loving posts about the brand’s latest developments, such as the one below about its new Inflight Training Center that received 10x more engagements than the typical travel brand post.
United’s success goes beyond just making announcements. By showcasing its expertise and passion, the brand intentionally appeals to a community of aviation enthusiasts, inspiring them to engage. As you craft your own social strategy, take note of how sharing your unique strengths can turn your brand into a magnet for niche communities.
Best on Instagram: Spirit Airlines
With a 1.87% engagement rate, Spirit Airlines led the pack in terms of Instagram engagement. To put that number into context, the travel industry’s median engagement rate for the social platform was 0.465%, meaning Spirit outperformed by more than 4x.
So, how did Spirit Airlines garner so much engagement on the ‘gram? By embracing celebration. From National Aviation Day to Hispanic Heritage Month, Spirit takes every opportunity to join the festivities. By tapping into these cultural moments, the brand not only stays relevant but also gives its followers a reason to engage and spread the love.
When it comes to content type, Spirit Airlines scores with Reels. These short-form videos have become the airline’s preferred format and it’s easy to see why. They’re fun, engaging, and undoubtedly one of the best ways to showcase the airline’s personality. Just take a look at the dance-filled Reel below, which knocked it out of the park with an engagement rate of 4.87%.
By embracing Reels and staying on top of relevant holidays, Spirit Airlines has found its social media sweet spot, delivering content that keeps followers coming back for more.
Best on TikTok: Southwest Airlines
TikTok may be one of the newer social platforms around but Southwest Airlines clearly has it figured out. The airline takes the cake with an engagement rate that’s sky-high, clocking in at 45.8%. That’s a whopping 6x greater than the travel industry’s median engagement rate of 7.43%.
So, what’s Southwest’s secret recipe? It focuses on sharing fun and heartwarming stories involving passengers, the Southwest crew, and even some four-legged friends, often via UGC. This approach adds a refreshing human touch to the brand, creating a sense of community and relatability that goes beyond just air travel.
The result is that viewers aren’t just watching — they’re also engaging and hitting that share button. The below video featuring a child passenger adorably greeting every guest on the plane is a perfect example of this in action. The TikTok garnered 1.3M likes and 11K shares, for an engagement rate by follower of 8.32%.
Considering the brand positions itself as “the airline with Heart,” it makes sense that its social strategy is centered on fostering a genuine connection with its audience. On a platform often filled with fleeting content, Southwest Airlines shows how, when you infuse heart and humanity into your brand, engagement soars.
To determine the top airlines on social media, we compared the engagement rates of leading global airline companies to the median engagement rate for the travel industry, as reported in our 2023 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report. We then ranked the brands that exceeded that median engagement rate to identify the top performers. The time period examined was from December 1, 2022, to November 30, 2023.
Wrapping It Up
In an era where online presence is crucial, the airline industry is rightfully turning to social media to connect with customers. As we look ahead, it’s clear that the leading airlines on social are those that understand the importance of authenticity, community, and celebration. If you’re an airline looking to improve your social media presence, take inspiration from these top airlines to optimize your own strategy for growth today. The sky’s the limit!