Tweet Me! American Ranks as Chattiest US Airline: Study

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Social media has become an important tool for airlines to communicate with travelers, and some carriers use Twitter more effectively than others, according to a new study., a resource for industry news and market data, studied the behavior and popularity of U.S. airlines on the instant-messaging platform. Some airlines are chattier than others, and a couple barely have a social presence at all. Where does your favorite carrier rank? And beware: a large following doesn't guarantee an engaged community.

Top 10 Most Popular U.S. Airlines on Twitter

  1. JetBlue Airways
  2. Southwest Airlines
  3. American Airlines
  4. Delta Air Lines
  5. Virgin America
  6. US Airways
  7. United Airlines
  8. Alaska Airlines
  9. Hawaiian Airlines
  10. Spirit Airlines

JetBlue is the most popular airline, with a total of more than two million followers on its @JetBlue and @JetBlueCheeps accounts. Southwest and American rounded out the top three, with more than 1.4 million and 490,000 followers respectively.

But having the largest following doesn't necessarily equate to high engagement with travelers.

Twitter-Talking With Travelers

American Airlines was found to be the most talkative U.S. airline on Twitter, sending out an average of 605 tweets per day over the two-week period studied. And the vast majority— 98.7 percent— were replies to travelers. (Read more: How American Gets Social Media Right)

My own interactions on Twitter with American have been highly engaging and sometimes fun. The person behind the tweet added a bit of personality. United in the past has been very quiet with my direct questions or comments, but has recently stepped-up their game and improved their engagement.

"Twitter has changed the pace of customer service," a JetBlue representative told "We understand the important (sic) of real-time correspondence with our customers and in engaging with them not just to answer questions…but also to have fun," they said.

But the study found some airlines don't have quite the same approach on Twitter as JetBlue or American. Spirit was particularly silent during the two weeks studied, barely sending out one tweet per day and almost never in response to a tweet received. (Read more: Spirit Airlines' 'No Hoax Here!' Airfare Sale)

Hawaiian Airlines was also shown to be relatively silent.

And earlier this month, I flew Southwest Airlines and tweeted them asking if they had an employee recognition program whereby I could nominate a gate agent who was particularly helpful. I never received a reply.

Have you used Twitter to communicate with an airline? What has been your experience?