Once self-proclaimed ‘the world’s favourite airline’, British Airways has this year found itself grounded alongside repeat offenders, Ryanair and American Airlines, as one of the nation’s worst airlines, according to the Which? Travel annual airline survey.
Holidaymakers panned BA for the quality of its food and drink, the comfort of its seats and value for money for its short-haul and long haul services with both only managing a 55 per cent customer score overall.
The consumer champion asked more than 6,500 holidaymakers to rate their experiences of flights taken over the course of 12 months. Passengers were asked to describe their experiences of customer service, boarding and cabin environment.
Once-loved British Airways was the third from the bottom of the short-haul table and fared even worse when it came to its long haul offering where it was second from the bottom.
The British flag carrier was awarded the best short-haul airline in the Which? Travel survey in 2015 but subsequent IT failures, strikes and mass cancellations have contributed to the descent of the airline in customers’ estimations.
Some passengers had such bad experiences they told Which? they would never fly British Airways again with one going as far as to say “BA is, without doubt, the worst airline we’ve ever used.”
Ryanair was voted the worst short-haul airline, a dubious accolade which it has flirted with for the last four consecutive years, with a dismal score of only 44 per cent.
Many passengers who had flown with the budget carrier pointed out the endless add ons and the finicky luggage requirements with one saying customers were treated like ‘cash cows’ and another carried on the analogy by saying the airline had a ‘cattle class mentality’.
Customers gave the airline the lowest possible score of one star out of a possible five in all categories including boarding, customer service and cabin experience, apart from value for money where it managed a two-star rating.
Vueling Airlines (54%) and Wizz Air (56%) were also among the worst of the short-haul carriers. Both failed to wow passengers in any of the categories with mostly two-star ratings for boarding, seat comfort and food and drink, although Wizz did manage three stars for value for money.
American Airways meanwhile landed with a bump at the bottom on the long haul table with another miserable customer score of 48 per cent. While the boarding process and the cabin cleanliness of the airline managed three stars, everything else was rated by passengers as below average. One passenger summed this up by saying: “the cabin was scruffy, the staff rude, the food awful.”
Some airlines did soar above the rest, however, and it wasn’t just premium airlines that did well. Short-haul travellers continued to praise the efforts of Jet2 for its budget prices with premium service, giving the airline a 79 per cent customer score and five stars for customer service.
Passengers repeatedly used words like ‘friendly’ and ‘efficient’ over and over again, some said it was their favourite airline. One passenger told Which?: “Jet2 doesn’t feel like a low-cost airline.”
EasyJet found itself with a respectable 65 per cent placing it in the middle of the table. Travellers said it was ‘fine’, ‘reliable’ and ‘no frills’ and it got four stars for value for money.
There were clear winners when it came to the long haul airline too. Singapore Airlines scored four or five stars for each category excelling in in-flight entertainment and customer service with a total 88 per cent customer score. Many passengers spoke of the extra touches like Christmas carols when boarding, free bars of chocolate and others said they ‘felt properly looked after’.
While Singapore Airlines clearly offered one of the most pleasant in-flight experiences, Emirates also did well (76%) and in contrast, amended its no-show clause after pressure from Which? Travel.
While still not perfect, the change means the airline will no longer cancel a return flight if they are notified within 24 hours of a missed outbound leg – something that Singapore Airlines is still guilty of.
Virgin Atlantic (72%) is also a consistent high scorer in the long haul category and unlike BA, has kept standards high while seeing off the budget upstarts like Wow and Primera – both now bust.
Those surveyed also told Which? that it was the best option when flying to the US and one went as far as to say “British Airways need to learn from Virgin”.
Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said:
“Year after year the same culprits continue to sink to new lows, yet for many of us, there is a choice. You don’t have to keep booking with an airline that has let you down – or one that you loved for years but has slipped in quality.
“If you get a choice and you are flying short-haul, choose Jet2. It is better quality than BA and often has better fares than Ryanair. If you are heading to the states, Virgin Atlantic beats BA hands-down.”
Notes to Editors:
In September 2019, 6,535 Which? Members completed a survey about their recent experiences of flying with an airline from the UK. 10,180 member experiences were recorded.
Airlines are rated for boarding, seat comfort, food and drink, cabin environment, customer service and value for money. The lowest possible rating for each of these areas is a one-star rating.
CAA punctuality data is from Aug 2018 – July 2019.