According to a study of global consumer sentiment on social media, Qatar Airways is the leading Middle East airline. The findings formed part of a broader research study to understand global public sentiment towards the leading airlines in the region and the factors driving it.
The research was carried out by BrandsEye on behalf of the aerospace division of the Toulouse MBA programme. Four major Middle Eastern airlines were in the fray, namely: Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates and Saudi Arabian Airlines.
The data was broken down using proprietary artificial intelligence techniques. A group of trained contributors who achieved a confidence level of 95% ensured that the data represented the true feelings of the global public.
According to BrandsEye, “Qatar was the most popular airline based on sentiment” with 44% positive conversation and 9% negative, compared to Emirates with 39% positive and 16% negative, ahead of Etihad with 31% positive and 16% negative.
The most spoken about airline was Emirates with 243,633 mentions, followed by Qatar at 165,276, Etihad at 78,705 and Saudia 49,447.
A unique element of the study included a topic analysis, which unpacked the key topics impacting sentiment towards the airlines. Of the elements contributing towards a good or bad flying experience, aesthetics, ethics, and in-flight amenities were the topics referenced most often by online authors, with each subject making up 10% of the overall discussion.
Opinion data was analysed for topics towards each airline to understand factors impacting both positive and negative sentiments.
“By contrast, of the four carriers, Saudia had generally negative sentiment towards it and performed poorly across a number of key topics,” BrandsEye said.
Qatar Airways received a total of 112,095 mentions, the conversations saw an upward push during the first four days of the crisis. The airlines was impacted with the airspace closure and even experienced a decline in positive sentiment. However, the airlines regained its reputation by highlighting the value of a strong brand and effective crisis planning.
“The study appears to show that for top performer Qatar Airways, consistently pleasing consumers has meant that the airline has been able to not only come out as a favourite among the public, but has been able develop a high degree of brand resilience, rapidly bouncing back from this possible PR crisis,” BrandsEye said.
Simple tallies of followers and online mentions are a blunt tool – reputation strength hinges on brands’ ability to deliver consistently across a wide range of areas. In the case of airlines, everything from customer service to aesthetics plays a part in the overall strength of the brand.
“Given their strong performances over a range of topics and high overall positive sentiment levels, it’s unsurprising that three of the airlines in the study – Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad – are among the world’s top carriers. The study highlights that although quantity of mentions is important, it is the quality of engagement which separate the good from the great,” BrandsEye said.