Passenger confidence in air transport has eroded in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic: social media listening finds over 8.5 million conversations convey a negative outlook, up 43% over the past two months

27 April, 2020

Passenger confidence in airlines and air travel has eroded in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic with over 8.5 million social conversations conveying a negative outlook – up 43% in past two months, according to latest insights from Black Swan Data’s aviation arm, FETHR.

In social listening research for members of the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and the International Flight Services Association (IFSA), FETHR has provided understandings based on Covid-19-related passenger discourse on social media. The APEX/IFSA COVID-19 Airline Customer Sentiment Report is based on analysis from more than 900 million naturally occurring social media conversations in the last two months and provides tactical recommendations for the near- to mid-term.

“Right now passengers are very frustrated, and as a result, they are responding to airline surveys very negatively. The benefit of our methodology – of looking at what’s naturally occurring across different social channels – is that we can pick up what’s truly important. It might even be something airlines haven’t thought to ask about,” says Will Cooper, insights director at FETHR.

The research shows that the conversation themes that experienced the highest growth in the past two months include maintaining loyalty status (4,060%), screenings (1,433%) and sanitary efforts (957%). However, according to Mr Cooper, sentiment is the key metric airlines need to zero in on to identify problem areas: The conversation themes eliciting the most negative passenger sentiment in order are difficulty finding Covid-19 information, food inspection and sanitary efforts.

CHART - The numbers reflect the number of naturally occurring conversations for a given topicSource: The APEX/IFSA COVID-19 Airline Customer Sentiment Report

Key to clamping down on much of the negative sentiment seems to be communication – a passenger conversation topic that garnered over 8 million hits. This is especially true when it comes to highlighting sanitary efforts, acknowledges Dr Joe Leader, CEO of PEX/IFSA CEO. “This is the time that airlines should be integrating that information into their booking engines and apps. Passengers do not realise that the aircraft itself is one of the safest places on the journey,” he says.

The study also highlights and compares the performance of 100 airlines in their response to the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in a top 10 list that is led by Singapore Airlines, which is acknowledged as consistently performing above average across positive driver categories. The Asian flag carrier holds a performance score of 30 – almost double the 18 points average. It strong performance was bettered in certain categories though, such as proactive measure and community spirit, where it was surpassed by both Qatar Airways and KLM.