Are Airlines Really Sorry? Lets Find Out Who Is Apologetic

Are airlines apologetic for a poor passenger experience? Many travelers would say no.


With more travelers interacting with airlines via social media and airing their complaints with airlines publicly through Twitter, I decided to pick fifteen active airline Twitter accounts, from the 100 most active airline Twitter feeds I follow, and find out.


The 100 original Twitter accounts were thinned out by removing duplicate accounts, such as @BritishAirways and @British_Airways, @AirCanada and @ACTopTier, @Delta and @DeltaNewsroom, @KLM and @KLM_UK, etc choosing to only select 15 Twitter accounts from the “main accounts” used by an airline … once this process was done I dug into each account.


Within each account I searched to see how often the word “Sorry” was Tweeted, in the case of @SAS I searched for both “Sorry” andBeklager.”    Three airline Twitter accounts were dropped from this research when their Twitterstreams revealed they had never Tweeted “Sorry,” or any variant of the word in the native language of the airline.


Below, in order, are how airlines stack up in saying they are sorry.   Take a look at the number of times each airline says they are sorry in comparison to how many tweets they have (as of 11:32am EST on the 22nd of December 2011), and the percent of Tweets in which the airline apologizes.


So who is the most apologetic airline?  Its not about how many times they say they are sorry, it is the percent of times they say they are sorry.


@British_Airways – 3,766 in 20,757 tweets, 18.14%


@QantasAirways – 2,185 in 14,595 tweets, 14.97%


@AmericanAir – 2,232 in 15,432 tweets, 14.46%


@SingaporeAir – 43 in 385 tweets, 11.16%


@SAS – 238 (in Norwegian 88) in 3,457 tweets, 9.43%


@SouthwestAir – 711 in 8,092 tweets, 8.78%


@Delta – 299 in 4,211 tweets, 7.10%


@AirCanada – 167 in 3,356 tweets, 4.97%


@USAirways – 80 in 2,149 tweets, 3.72%


@United – 66 in 1,897 tweets, 3.47%


@KLM – 826 in 30,563 tweets, 2.7%


@MAS – 69 in 3,740 tweets, 1.84%


@GulfAir – 32 in 1,918 tweets, 1.66%


@AirBaltic – 52 in 3,172 tweets, 1.63%


@RoyalBruneiAir – 17 in 1,348 tweets, 1.26%


If you’ve complained to an airline via Twitter see how your carrier stacks up. If the airline you complained to isn’t listed, let me know and let me know if they apologized or not.


Happy Flying!




  1. This list doesn’t account for each carrier’s reason for being on Twitter to begin with – if it has a reason. For example, if an airline’s primary reason for using Twitter is to promote its products or broadcast news, then by definition it is not going to have as much interactive engagement with complaining pax. I guess the point is, if one is tempted to use “% of sorry-ness” as a proxy for “overall carrier responsiveness to customer complaints” then one should be very cautious with these numbers.

    Also, I’m wondering what YOU think the value of the list would be. If, as you suggest up top, it’s to find out which airline is “most apologetic,” what can we conclude from this list? That an airline that apologizes a lot is good because it has the customer’s satisfaction in mind? Or that it’s bad, because it makes so many mistakes that it has to spend a large percentage of its social media bandwidth apologizing?

    Thanks for the analysis.

  2. It’s unfortunate that most carriers don’t outright apologize. Often that’s all a passenger wants (even though compensation is nice, too). I wonder if some of the reason is to avoid any legal liability as a result of admitting guilt. Even if most complaints are not the kind to result in lawsuits, there may be a recommendation to avoid saying sorry.

  3. One thing your quick method misses is the amount of times it is a negative situation that the person tweeted about. If the airline has more folks saying “great job”, etc. then it would skew your stats as they wouldn’t need to say “sorry”.

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