MIAMI — As worldwide passenger numbers continue to increase, so does the feedback received by the airlines with whom they fly. Passenger reviews on their experiences can readily be found on popular sites such as TripAdvisor, Skytrax, and Trustpilot. Such reviews can play a huge part in the overall brand reflection and performance of an airline.
With the advent of social media over the past decade, consumers are far more vocal on what they like and what they don’t. Negative passenger experiences quickly find their way into the public domain, and when airlines fail to act the impact of negative feedback can have a detrimental impact on consumer confidence and shareholders willingness to invest.
Therefore, ensuring airlines are up to date with passenger feedback is of utmost importance.
A recent research by US Packaging & Wrapping collated the reviews of thousands of passengers and revealed a summary of all positive and negatives words associated with each airline.
“The word cloud visualizations you’ll find below come directly from this data, which allowed us to see which words are most commonly used when discussing each airline. This gave us an interesting insight into how each of these airlines is being reviewed online and into the day-to-day experiences their customers.,” says the organization about the study.
Words such as ‘good’, ‘great’ and ‘excellent’ typically paint a positive picture of how an airline’s overall service is performing, while negative wording as ‘bad’, ‘terrible’ or ‘delayed’ portray a negative picture for an airline.
Below are the top 10 performing airlines in terms of the overall feedback received.
Top performing of all the airline feedback was Emirates with 73% of reviews giving a positive view of the Middle East carriers service.
“Emirates stands out not least due to the sheer variety of positive terms it receives. Aside from the usual ‘good’, ‘great’, ‘excellent’ and ‘best’, we have several new frontrunners like ‘amazing’, ‘fantastic’ and ‘wonderful’. The airline also had the highest rate of appearances of the word ‘excellent’, with 4.87% of review titles containing the term. Emirates also has the highest proportion of positives in its top fifty terms out of all the airlines studied here,” lists the analysis.
Another word that’s bigger than usual is ‘entertainment’. It seems that the in-flight movies, tv shows, music and games offered by Emirates are, if not better than competing airlines, at least more review worthy.
“There is definitely a greater variety of positive terms in this word cloud. Aside from the words already mentioned, there are many others, like ‘luxury’, ‘superb’ and ‘perfect’, that are rarely seen across the other word clouds. On the other hand, we can see common negative terms as well, with the largest being ‘poor’, ‘disappointed’ and ‘bad’.”
Recently, Airways correspondent Anne Spiselman spoke to Emirates about their in-flight product and how they select their award-winning wine list. The airline launched its first Emirates Vintage Collection with Château Cheval Blanc 2004, and the wine estate’s commercial director, Arnaud de Laforcade, was on board to offer a surprise master class in the A380’s luxe onboard lounge.
- Positive: 73%
- Neutral: 20%
- Negative: 7%
Next on the list of all those reviewed was US low-cost carrier, Southwest Airlines, which has greatly enhanced its passenger experience over the years.
“Even the most cursory glance will tell you that Southwest Airlines’ word cloud is a rather positive one. Not only are all the words we’ve come to expect out in force (e.g. ‘good’, ‘great’, ‘best’, ‘excellent’) there are also some hitherto rare or unseen positive terms. Example include ‘favorite’, ‘early’, ‘love’, ‘easy’ and ‘quick’,” says the organization.
“This isn’t to say that there are no negative terms at all – look closely and you’ll notice words like ‘delayed’, ‘late’, ‘cancelled’ and ‘bad’. However, these are in a definite minority. Overall, Southwest definitely seems to give its customers a satisfactory experience.”
Southwest has also embarked on some nice entertaining ventures, such as the partnership between the airline and the Discovery Channel to promote the extremely popular Shark Week event, providing passengers with exclusive Shark Week-related on-demand content streamable via the airline’s in-flight entertainment portal.
- Positive: 71%
- Neutral: 23%
- Negative: 6%
Third on the list is Europe’s largest airline, Lufthansa, who continues to improve on their in-flight passenger offering as well as changes to their branding with their new livery.
“One noticeable aspect of Lufthansa’s word cloud is a feeling of professionalism. Aside from ‘professional’, we can see terms like ‘efficient’, ‘efficiency’ and ‘reliable’,” says the analysis.
“Another point in the airline’s favor is the fact that it has the highest percentage of reviews containing the term ‘comfortable’, totaling at 2.79%, as well as the term ‘good’, totaling at 12% of all review titles analyzed.”
Like all the airlines in the study, Lufthansa’s results aren’t perfect; there are various negative terms throughout.
“However, the negative terms seem broader than many other airlines, suggesting that its issues aren’t centered around one major problem and are likely more related to general issues people have with flying. The words include ‘bad’, ‘poor’ and ‘worst’ – not great to hear, but standard results at this point.”
- Positive: 65%
- Neutral: 20%
- Negative: 15%
4. Delta Air Lines
Fourth on the list is US legacy carrier Delta Air Lines, which continues to expand its offering to passengers onboard as well as improvements to its service.
“Delta’s word cloud seems fairly positive overall. ‘Comfort’, ‘comfortable’ and ‘smooth’ all make their presence known, other words like ‘nice’, ‘friendly’ and ‘better’ are all larger than usual, and even ‘love’ is a noticeable size. The airline has a relatively high proportion of positive terms with 61%,” says the organization.
“Minor timing issues are suggested by terms like ‘delays’, ‘delayed’, etc. However, the words are a lot smaller than in many of the other word clouds and other words like ‘early’ and ‘easy’ arguably suggest that many other people haven’t had problems in this regard.”
Delta continues to lead the way among the three US legacy carriers with the best overall hard and soft products, introducing DeltaOne Suites on its Airbus A350-900s and Boeing 777-200ER/LRs.
- Positive: 61%
- Neutral: 29%
- Negative: 10%
5. China Southern Airlines
Next is China Southern which has invested heavily into modernization over the past few years along with an enhanced onboard offering for its passengers.
“Not only is China Southern Airlines’ word cloud unusual through the presence of the word ‘value’, but this is also one of its most common terms. Combined with the more minor additions of ‘budget’ and ‘cheap’, it appears that many passengers have found good deals through this airline,” says the analysis.
“One might expect the drawback of this to be an increase of negative words – you get what you pay for, after all, as evidenced by terms like ‘worst’ and ‘terrible’ being as visible as ever.”
Generally speaking though, the larger words tend to be positive, like ‘comfortable’ and ‘pleasant’. The airline also had the highest rate of appearances of the term ‘friendly’ in their reviews, totaling at 2.16%. If customer service is your most important criteria, it sounds like China Southern has you covered.
It will be interesting to see how the traveler’s perceptions change once China Southern firms up its relationship with the oneworld Alliance. The Chinese carrier recently announced its departure from the SkyTeam Alliance.
- Positive: 59%
- Neutral: 27%
- Negative: 14%
6. British Airways
British Airways feedback has waned over the past years as the airline implemented changes to its onboard offering which cut many benefits for the majority of flying passengers.
“The sizable presence of the words ‘disappointing’ and ‘disappointed’ suggests that people have certain expectations of British Airways and that these expectations are often not met. This might explain the lack of positive descriptive words – aside from moderate use of ‘smooth’, there aren’t many of the terms we may expect, like ‘comfortable’,” the analysis notes.
The airline recently retired its Boeing 767-300ER workhorse and is introducing a myriad of new planes every month, including brand-new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Airbus A321neos, which might help improving those passenger reviews.
- Positive: 50%
- Neutral: 29%
- Negative: 21%
7. Air France
Air France’s most common words are ‘good’, ‘great’ and ‘excellent’. A good sign, one might think, although you’ll notice these words become a prevailing theme.
“Something that marks this airline apart from its competitors is the relative lack of terms relating to scheduling problems: while the word ‘delayed’ can be found, it is far less noticeable than airlines like American Airlines and easyJet,” says the organization.
“On the other hand, negative words, including ‘poor’, ‘terrible’ and even ‘worst’, are definitely larger for Air France than for most of the other airlines. To make matters worse, Air France had the highest rate of the word ‘avoid’ appearing in their reviews.”
Recently, Air France unveiled its brand-new Premium Economy and Economy Class cabins, which will be fitted in its aging Airbus A330 fleet starting next year.
Also, the carrier will be phasing out five of its Airbus A380s and has decided to rely on brand-new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and its current 777-300ER fleet—decisions that might tilt the balance in passenger perception.
- Positive: 50%
- Neutral: 26%
- Negative: 24%
8. American Airlines
The most prominent words in AA’s word cloud are rather mixed. Again, we see terms like ‘great’, ‘good’, ‘nice’ and ‘excellent’. However, other words like ‘worst’, ‘bad’, terrible’ and ‘long’ are also highly visible here.
Terms like ‘smooth’, ‘comfortable’ and ‘pleasant’ suggest the feeling of dignified luxury when it comes to traveling with the airline.
“The words ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘cramped’ still manage to sneak in, but overall the word cloud seems positive for American Airlines. Where AA seems to suffer is in organizational terms. For instance, ‘delayed’, ‘delays’ and ‘cancelled’ are all very noticeable,” the organization notes.
The US carrier has been punished by the public with the arrival of its new Boeing 737 MAX 8s, which have been coined as the worst in terms of comfort by frequent travelers.
- Positive: 45%
- Neutral: 22%
- Negative: 33%
The only European low-cost carrier to appear within the list is easyJet. “It might be a surprise to some that, in spite of their questionable reputation, easyJet’s most common words are fairly positive! Words like ‘great’ and ‘good’ are only matched by terms relating to easyJet’s widely known low prices, like ‘cheap’, ‘budget’ and ‘value’.”
“Delving into the slightly less common words is the point at which cracks start to appear. Terms like ‘nice’ and ‘efficient’ are still present, but we also find words like ‘delayed’ (as well as ‘delay’ and ‘delays’), ‘late’ and ‘problems’. In fact, easyJet had the highest chance of having ‘delayed’ in their reviews compared to all their competitors: the word was present in 1.63% of reviews. Evidently, easyJet’s time-keeping leaves room for improvement,” the organization says.
- Positive: 44%
- Neutral: 34%
- Negative: 22%
The reviews of United Airlines were fairly mixed, the organization says. “While we can see the usual positives like ‘great’, ‘excellent’ and ‘friendly’, the word cloud is also littered with some very visible negatives.”
The most obvious are ‘worst’, ‘horrible’, ‘terrible’ and ‘bad’. Other negatives include references to flight unreliability: ‘delay’, ‘delayed’, ‘delays’ and ‘cancelled’ find themselves in prominent positions once again.
“United Airlines also has the unfortunate accolade of having the highest percentage of negatives and the lowest percentage of positives in their top fifty terms out of all the airlines studied,” they note.
However, United is on a fleet-renewal frenzy and has recently welcomed the Boeing 787-10 to its fleet, featuring an all-new Polaris Business Class with all-aisle access. These planes, together with the airline’s massive route expansion, might change customer perception in the immediate future.
- Positive: 43%
- Neutral: 23%
- Negative: 34%
For more information, visit the organization’s website by clicking here.