Research & Insights

By John Le, September 29, 2009

Airlines: Who to fly with?

I really hate flying, not because I do not like being transported through the sky in a giant metal cylinder which is incredibly amazing and cool, but because service is unpredictable. Inevitably, I am burdened with mundane research, searching for and reading recent reviews, to find a good service. No one really wants to do this, but we still want to know which airlines have a greater percentage of recently satisfied customers. PeopleBrowsr, a social search engine we are working with, did a really interesting sentiment analysis task on airlines and generously allowed us to publish the data.


We can see a slight negative correlation between size of the airline and the percentage of positive tweets. Smaller commercial airlines like Hawaiian, SkyWest, and Virgin had higher percentages of positive tweets clustering towards the lower right hand corner of the graph, while larger carriers like United, Delta, and Continental had lower percentages clustering towards the upper left hand corner. Though SouthWest was one of the larger carriers that broke this trend. We should note that Aloha Airlines no longer exists (the passenger data for which is from 2007) and it’s possible that the tweets for Aloha airlines showed such a high percentage of positive tweets because “aloha” invokes positive sentiment.

What was said

To gain insight into what we can expect from a positively or negatively viewed airline, it would also be nice to know what words were being used. So below are two nice Wordle visualizations of tweeted words where size indicates greater prevalence of the word, while word orientation and color are for style.

Positive Sentiment Tweet Words
Negative Sentiment Tweet Words

Not surprisingly the prevalences of the words “delay”, “wait”, and “waiting” for negatively viewed airlines implies having delays and making people wait is bad. Positive tweets contained common words like “great”, “best”, and “good”, but also “internet”, “wifi”, and “wireless” which is also not very surprising, since internet connectivity is so highly valued. Interestingly, some positive tweets contain words like “galactic”, “mothership”, and “spaceport”. Taking this into account I’ll try to find an airline run by aliens the next time I fly, and hopefully my interactions with them won’t prove disastrous.