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Airline Customer Service — Here’s how (fast) Airlines Respond to you!

Customer service is something you want to function when you need it. So we put together relevant information about airline customer service. Please find out how airlines perform when it comes to responding to passengers' problems.

There’s nothing more exciting than traveling. For some, this feeling comes together with some pre-travel anxiety where people wonder if their flight will be on time or if they will reach their connection. In case of bad weather, and the flight remains scheduled or if it will be delayed or canceled. Now talking about the current COVID-19 times, this anxiety increases when people wonder if their destination will go into lockdown. A lockdown implies that flights will be canceled, reschedule the trip if the airline cancels the flights, and waiting to see if they will receive the reimbursement for this. 

Proper and Efficient Communication is key to Airline Customer Service!

Because of this need for communication and transparency, airlines need to make sure they have proper and efficient communication with their customers through all their contact points. We can say that in general, one of the most crucial aspects for all brands is communication with their customers. Customer service lines must be available through all the channels used by the brands to communicate with their customers: Call Center, Chat, E-mail, and Social Media.

Airline Customer Service Must Ensure Quick Responses

In the case of airlines, travelers are expecting quick responses to their inquiries, especially in uncertain times. Travelers want to know if their upcoming flights remain scheduled. If an unexpected cancellation, they want information for rebooking or canceling their flight or have concerned about delayed flights. Social media has become a way to express their fascination or dissatisfaction with the airline, almost in real-time. As soon as a customer has a bad experience with an airline, it can take a matter of minutes for this customer to express their thoughts and situation through social media. In some cases, these issues have become viral. One of the most known cases is the United Airlines passenger removal from the flight in a very controversial manner. 

How to Measure Airline Customer Service?

If airlines want to mitigate the issues becoming viral on social media, airlines need to act and act fast. Today, we will discuss the responsiveness, response times, and industry reference points from airlines in Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA), and North America, based on the Airline Benchmark Report performed by Conversocial in 2017. The KPIs evaluated are the following:

  • Response Rate: The percentage of user posts or questions that receive a response from the airline.
  • Response Time: The average amount of time for the airline to respond to users’ posts or questions.


Airline Customer Service — Industry Performance

Based on the industry average of customer service responsiveness, 25.23%, the study evaluates multiple airlines within both regions. As a main result, the standard of North American Airlines is 22.3%, and EMEA airlines have responsiveness of 28.07%, which means both regions are above the industry average. 


In the graph provided by the study, we can see that while in North America five airlines are above the average of the region, in EMEA, only three manage to be above the average:

Airline Customer Service, Responsiveness Overview
(Source: Conversocial, 2017)

Now let’s see how the behavior in comparison to the previous year was, where the average industry responsiveness was 21%:

Airline Customer Service, development airlines
(Source: Conversocial, 2016)

In this case, we can see that the year before, the EMEA region was below the industry average, and only two airlines were above. Moreover, one of them considerably reduced the response in the following year. However, for the airlines in America, we can see that six of them were above the industry average on the previous year, while in 2017, only five reached the level above.

Response Time of North American Airlines in Detail

The average response time for the airlines mentioned above is 20min 1sec for North American airlines and 1h 41min for EMEA airlines. On the top of the list for the North American Airlines, we have JetBlue with an Average Response Time of 4min 50sec and the longest average response time corresponds to United Airlines with an average response time of 1h 34min. In this case, the ten airlines evaluated, eight have an average response time faster than the average, while two of the airlines are slower for a matter of hours. 

Airline Twitter AccountResponse Time
@JetBlue4mins 50s
@VirginAmerica4mins 56s
@AlaskaAir5mins 10s
@SouthwestAir6mins 36s
@AirCanada9mins 01s
@WestJet10mins 47s
@SpiritAirlines14mins 15s
@AmericanAir20mins 19s
@Delta31mins 04s
@United1h 34mins
Average20min 1s
Airline Customer Service — Average Response Time, North American Airlines — Source: Conversocial

Response Time of EMEA Airlines in Detail

For EMEA airlines, we can see that on average, the fastest airline is Lufthansa, with 9min 15sec and the slowest being Finnair with an average response time of 5h 33min. From the airlines included in the study, seven airlines have an average response time faster than the average. One is close to average but somehow a few minutes more quickly, while two airlines are far slower than the average. 

Airline Twitter AccountResponse Time
@Lufthansa9mins 15s
@EtihadHelp11mins 21s
@Ryanair16mins 23s
@Icelandair19mins 57s
@VirginAtlantic20mins 37s
@KLM20mins 0s
@qrsupport1h 39mins
@EmiratesSupport3h 39mins
@easyJet4h 17mins
@FinnairHelps5h 33mins
Average1h 41min
Airline Customer Service — Average Response Time, EMEA Airlines — Source: Conversocial

Airline Customer Service — Responses Rates

In case of a crisis period, the faster the airlines respond, the better impact it causes on the customer. The customer feels the airline is attending to their needs and can be more open to alternative solutions than when they feel ignored. Tracking the speed at which airlines reply, there’s the one-hour reference point set where airlines can track how many responses happen in under an hour. This additional essential KPI is known as % of Responses under an hour. 

The average of the North American market is 92.2%. The top three airlines above the regional average are:

1Virgin America99.7
2American Airlines99.5
3Southwest Airlines99.4
Customer Service — Top Airline Response Rate — North America

The three airlines that need to improve this metric are:

1United Airlines59.9
2Delta Air Lines85.3
3Spirit Airlines91.7
Customer Service — Top Airline Response Rate — North America

The average of the EMEA market is 70.15%. The top three airlines above the regional average are: 

3Virgin Atlantic92.5
Customer Service — Top Airline Response Rate — North America

The three airlines that need to improve this metric are:

Customer Service — Top Airline Response Rate — North America

In the graph below, we can see the overview of the other airlines:

(Source: Conversocial, 2017)

Further Airline Customer Service KPIs

There are other relevant KPIs linked to the communication of the airlines with their customers. 

  • User Activity: Identifying the times of days and days of the week in which the users engage most frequently with the Page, possibly increasing communication with the airline through social media or the portals. 
  • Average Responses per Hour: How many responses are on average within one hour. 
  • Fastest Response: How much time took the fastest response from all.
  • Slowest Response: How much time took the slowest response from all.

We can see the evolution and changes in only one year difference of evaluation. Of course, there are new players in the analysis. However, within the existing ones, we can see how much it variates for one single airline. With the available measures, it will be interesting to see how these measures have evolved during the pandemic and how airlines communicate with their travelers.

How’s Your Experience With Airline’s Customer Serivce?

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Benjamin Walther

CEO, Frankfurt

Benjamin is Information Design's CEO and a proven content-maniac. Besides running a successful business and developing pioneering ideas, he's dedicated to writing blog posts and creating content.

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