Many industry sectors have been latecomers to the world of web 2.0, but few have been as recondite as the major airlines. Smaller airlines like JetBlue and Southwest are flying lead as far as online marketing is concerned.

JetBlue uses Twitter to communicate with passengers, addressing complaints and providing updated flight information in near-real-time. Southwest employs dedicated online marketing professionals to monitor social networking sites and provide the company with up-to-date information on what its customers are saying about it. Southwest, additionally, has won awards for having the best search engine optimization (SEO) in the industry.

However, major carriers like Delta are only cautiously adopting new online marketing techniques like SEO and social media. That airline’s Facebook page, says the Associated Press, is mainly used to peddle discount offers and give travel tips for Delta destinations.

Experts say that details like this should make it no surprise that Southwest ranked highest in a recent survey of airline customer satisfaction performed by the University of Michigan. Traditional advertising and marketing models are becoming less relevant as the economy becomes more and more digitzed, say analysts, and new online marketing techniques like search engine optimization (SEO) are gaining in importance.