Modern air travel is hell. But turns out, it can also be quite photogenic.

When United Airlines first took flight on Instagram in 2013, it posted everything from photos of events and sponsorships to photos of its social media team and even glimpses of its Network Operations Center in Chicago.

But after culling data over the past few years, the airlines’ social media team and agency Wunderman realized what your average traveling Instagrammer intuited all along: Aerial shots of airplane wings gliding over wispy clouds and birds-eye views of vast swathes of land far outperformed other types of content. Content with strong aviation visuals generated over 145 percent more likes than other content. In other words, airplane porn is popular.

“Instagram has emerged as the artistic canvas that represents our brand, a visual hub that inspires travelers and connects them to their passion points,” said K.C. Geen, United’s director of social media and content marketing. “More often than not, that tends to be breathtaking imagery from the top that really appeals to what we call the ‘avgeek.’”

This insight led the airline to develop a new brand persona on social media, that of the perfect “travel companion.” This is reflected in its Instagram content, which shows off its aircrafts from unique yet attainable angles, often emphasizing the brand’s colors: blue, gold and white. Even the copy accompanying the content is meant to evoke a persona Geen describes as “friendly, positive, insightful and fun.” Just what you need in that three-hour TSA line.

“These are shots that the ordinary passenger might not see every time they fly with us, but if they’re in the right spot at the right time, they too could capture something just as breathtaking,” said Courtney Kessler, social media lead at Wunderman who handles United’s social media. “They are centered around what we call the ‘golden hour.’”

Instagram not only drives some of the highest engagement for United, it’s also one of the brand’s fastest-growing social platforms. There are over 150,000 uses of the hashtag #unitedairlines on Instagram. The United account has amassed over 245,000 followers, more than doubling its growth in barely 10 months.

Still, it’s not all aerial shots. Kessler said that the airline has been experimenting with other types of content as well. Inspirational travel photos of some of exotic destinations tend to perform second best. The brand encourages its audience to share its posts using the hashtag #unitedairlines and regularly features user-generated content. It ran a Thanksgiving campaign around food and its chefs’ recipes called “Feast on the Fly.” It has also posted cinemagraphs.

“Cinemagraphs are great for Instagram because they are visually engaging, and you still get the message of the content regardless of whether you stop to watch it play,” said Kessler. “We’ve seen success with this format and are planning to explore more cinemagraphs in the future.”

According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic leisure travel grew steadily in 2015 and will continue to grow in 2016. As travel continues to grow, social media has also emerged as an important factor for airlines. A 2015 report by Crimson Hexagon said that social has an increasing significance for airlines and that brands need to adopt more fluid and informal language when communicating with customers over social media.

“Airlines have done a tremendous job of commoditizing themselves; now they’re humanizing themselves,” said Robert Cole, senior research analyst, lodging and leisure travel at Phocuswright. “It looks like United is getting it right, both from its content and tone.”

With an algorithm change set to hit Instagram soon, brands, including United are aware that they will have to rethink their strategies on the platform. United has already started putting paid support behind its posts, targeting even more specific segments of its audience.

“We understand that most channels are pay for play nowadays,” said Geen. “But that’s the thing about social media. There’s no set formula. You’re always on your toes.”

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