Delta wins out in Twitter response times analysis

Airlines have in the main embraced social media although in some cases perhaps because they have been forced to respond to some vociferous consumer conversations.

Such is their presence on Twitter that SimpliFlying has got together with social media benchmarking company Unmetric to produce some nifty research on how quickly airlines respond to tweets.

The analysis is of airline activity in the past 30 days and reveals Delta Air Lines has the fastest average response time of 11 minutes via its @deltaassist handle.

US Airways came out with the worst average response time of more than seven hours with United Airlines some way ahead at almost two-and-a-half hours.

As per the second chart, Delta Assist also came first in the volume of tweets it sent in the 30 days, 4,235, more than double the number sent by JetBlue, which is often held up as the airline social media champion.

According to this behind the scenes look at Delta’s social media operation the airline devotes 12 people to handling Delta Assist.

The full analysis, which also shows which airlines provide a 24-hour service and a breakdown of what the tweets are, can be found here.

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About the Writer :: Linda Fox

Linda Fox is managing editor for Tnooz. For the past decade years she has worked as a freelance journalist across a range of B2B titles including Travolution, ABTA Magazine, Travelmole and the Business Travel Magazine.

In this time she has also undertaken corporate projects for a number of high profile travel technology, travel management and research companies.

Prior to her freelance career she covered hotels and technology news for Travel Trade Gazette for seven years. Linda joined TTG from Caterer & Hotelkeeper where she worked on the features desk for more than five years.



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  6. Shubhodeep Pal

    Hi Ingvay

    Peter (from Unmetric) has already replied to your post.


  7. Ingvay7

    @ Linda Fox or @Shubhodeep Pal : Can you reply to my post above?

  8. Ingvay7

    Interesting post. Can you provide some clarity on how the response times are being calculated?
    Judging by Delta’s numbers, “4,235 questions in the last 30 days with an average response time of just 11 minutes” , the Average response time is coming to 10.20 minutes taking 30 day 24/7 operation in consideration close to your 11 minute figure. Is the same logic being applied to US Airways? Taking a similar approach, with your figure of 485 responses assuming a 30 day,24/7 operation, the response time comes up to 89.07 or about an hour and a half. Similarly for, United, it comes to 2.35 close to your 2:27 figure.
    Also, how are you factoring direct messages as well?

    • Peter

      Hi Ingvay, our system is factoring the time between a question being asked and the airline responding to it. So if ten questions were asked over 5 days and it took XYZ airline 10 minutes to respond to each of them then the ART is 10 minutes. If 5 questions were answered in 5 minutes and 5 questions answered in 15 minutes the ART is still 10.

      If an airline only replied to tweets in the last 5 days of the time period considered it wouldn’t have affected their ART because we’re only considering the response times in that last 5 days.


      Manager – Global Marketing, Unmetric

    • Peter

      Sorry, forgot to add: we are not factoring direct messages as there is no way we can track that without getting access to the airline’s accounts, and that’s not a road we want to go down.


  9. murray harrold

    The response times are still on their own, basically, irrelevant.

    To be of any value , one would need to look at things like (for example) – Are people repeatedly asking the same question? – Are people asking routine questions which should be blindingly obvious as to how to find them on the relevant website? Are people raising really quite serious customer service issues and – How often and are such questions similar in nature? How fast anyone replies to tweet is, well, meaningless. (I am sure there are a lot of other matters one should be looking at)

    Now, if one could look at some of these subsequent issues raised and other types and nature of questions, this would work on two levels – First, An organisation could establish where it is falling down and Second an analyst could, possibly by just following or reviewing an organisations timeline, establish and (should they wish to) make people aware of that organisations strengths or weaknesses.

    Now, this sort of report which appears as an article is highly dangerous … for it offers an opportunity for someone (say, airline xyz) to trumpet that they are the fastest to respond to a tweet … which means, well ….. nothing – especially if that response achieves nought by way of issue resolution. It is better to not to raise this sort of subject at all.

    • Linda Fox

      @Murray – I don’t think they are irrelevant, they might be are a customer’s first contact in a difficult situation so act as reassurance. In addition, if Delta did send out more than 4,000 tweets in a 30 day period via @delta assist then I should think customers would have something to say if issues were not resolved.

      Personally I would rather have a little help in 11 mins then have to wait more than seven hours or get no help at all.

      • murray harrold

        My point is simply this: Okay they take 5 nanoseconds to say hello – but if the information/ question is fairly mundane stuff then – what’s the point? The real test would come if one has an Ash Cloud Mark 2 or another severe security thingy – and sure as eggs are eggs, there would be no-one there or one would simply get an (admittedly very fast) response saying there is naff all we can do, you will have to call.

        Ironically, it has, in the past, been the role of the old fashioned travel agent who has been on the front line in any crisis – working in close relationship with the airlines, though the GDS systems – and believe me, I had many people who called me whom I simply could not help … because they had booked direct. With their own clients, it was, for all agents worth their salt, a matter of using their skill, knowledge and ability to read between the lines. It was the (diminishing) army of agents who untangled most people’s dilemma. Online boys were effectively, pretty much hopeless (from the calls I got) and airlines, given that many use far flung call centers working from call sheets were about as much use as wind in water. There are but a few airlines who still use good, holistically trained service agents.

        So, you may have to wait seven hours to get an issue resolved, still, if it makes you happy to get an immediate response, yet one which resolves nothing, so be it.

        As such, therefore, this whole thing is a total red herring *unless* some analysis is done on the quantity, type and nature of customer enquiry and, of course the nature of the response.

        (One thing I would add – and it came from the ash cloud – I learnt that many clients called even though they knew there was nothing one could do, simply because they wanted to feel that someone was there; someone they knew who was on their side. Now, it is the “someone they knew” which is the important bit, here. Not some unknown on a tweet, not yet another call centre type with whom they had to go through everything again but a voice they recognised; empathy, that’s the word.)

  10. Padraic Gilligan

    Folks – speed of response is one thing, quality of response is another! I’ve recently posted two blogs detailing a particularly harrowing experience with Delta. I’ve also posted a challenge. See

  11. Mel

    Did you notice that US Airways had almost no responses to customers until a couple weeks ago? At that point they started to respond. This would skew their results to the point where a comparison would not be possible. Determination of an average time would in no way be accurate. Either take the average for the time they are responding or leave them off.

    • Linda Fox

      @Mel – so, maybe a few lines from Simpliflying on length of time airlines had participated on twitter and under what guise would have given us that context

    • Peter

      Hi Mel, thanks for your comments on our analysis. I just wanted to let you know how the Average Response Time (ART) was calculated. You are correct in that US Airways only started replying to tweets on the 14-15th March but we were only taking in to account tweets that US Airways replied to. If someone tweeted them on the 10th March and got no reply, that wasn’t taken in to account, so there is no skewing of the results here.

      If we take a look at the last 7 days then US Airways had an ART of 44 minutes which means that they are doing better but still well off the pace of Delta and JetBlue who are laying down the benchmarks for others to follow. These two brands had an ART of 10 minutes in the last 7 days and Delta replied to 5x the number of tweets. By comparison, United’s ART jumped to 5hrs 28mins in the last 7 days.


      Manager – Global Marketing, Unmetric

  12. Delta wins out in Twitter response times analysis

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  14. Shubhodeep Pal


    Thanks for weighing in with your thoughts here. I agree that for some travellers resolution of the problem is the ultimate measurement of the effectiveness of customer service. However, let me add some thoughts of my own about the issue that will make it clearer why we think these insights are important.

    First of all of course, this is not a survey. These are charts produced based on real-time data gleaned by Unmetric’s software.

    Second, every passenger these days is not tweeting about “major” customer-service issues to airlines but even minor things such as “where can I find x” “how can I do this”. For instances when passengers are at the airport and tweeting about such issues, the average reply time matters immensely.
    This, if I may point out, is a CONTRIBUTION of Twitter towards advancing customer service to the next level.

    Third, Twitter does away with the intensely long waits on a hotline that every customer is familiar with. The “first point of contact” is important to ensure that the passenger knows he’s being heard without making him wait too long.

    Fourth, given the increasing time people are spending online together with large followings many people now have, especially on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, there’s a chance that not addressing issues raised by customers asap could lead to them spewing abuse among their followers about the airline. Think about what happened with Kevin Smith. More than a million people to listen to him rant about Southwest. What if Southwest had not responded soon on Twitter as well?

    Fifth, crisis management is becoming an increasingly important aspect of social customer service. The recent JetBlue incident is enough proof of the value in using social networks such as Twitter to keep your customers updated in real-time about issues they are anxious about.

    Hope you do read this. 🙂

    Shubhodeep Pal
    Senior Innovation Officer, SimpliFlying

  15. murray harrold

    Eh? And ….? So what. Talk about the most useless survey ever conducted! What does it matter how quickly someone responds? What is important is how quickly someone responds to resolving an issue ever bearing in mind that the objective is a) To take possession of a problem and b) To resolve it. Airlines (like many other large firms) regard the objective as 1) To come up with all sorts of platitudes and then 2) To pass the problem on to someone else.

    This survey is totally irrelevant. Now, if someone was to say Airline X *resolved all issues* the fastest (of which social media may or may not be a channel) yes, that is relevant. According to this, if someone manages to say “I will pass it on” very quickly, that somehow means something…. which it doesn’t.

    The best for actually responding with a useful answer which actually resolves a problem has been, in my *practical* experience – @flybmi @British_Airways and @KLM. Worst – well…

    Delta do respond … but not with anything meaningful … unless you count “Please telephone …” as meaningful, when one then spends time hanging on the telephone.

    • Peter

      Hi Murray, I’m not sure if you read the full post on SimpliFlying, it gives the analysis a lot more context to the reply times. It would be quite difficult to analyze whether questions were fully resolved over Twitter as many airlines (and brands in general for that matter) want to take the conversation private ASAP. What I think is important, and something Shubhodeep has expanded on, is that airlines recognize that they need to provide instant assistance, even if they are not able to fully resolve problems in 140 characters.

      What I saw from looking at the @replies from airlines is that they are answering simple questions like how do I claim airmiles, how do I change my flight, what is the baggage allowance, how do I report lost/damaged property etc.

      True enough, a quick response might not get your problem resolved but if you had to wait 12 hours for first contact not many people would be happy with that, especially if it’s a quick 30 second question.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I hope between Shubhodeep and myself we were able to give more context to the analysis, I’ll check out the European airlines in another blog post.


      Manager – Global Marketing, Unmetric


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