Traditional package firms shone in the survey attaining Recommended Provider status while many online brands were said to have 'failed to deliver the exceptional, five-star levels of customer service reported by those at the top of the table'
Online brands respond to 'unrepresentative' Which? package provider survey
Online travel firms have described the latest package holiday provider rankings by customer champion Which? as unreflective and unrepresentative of the services they provide.
Which? gave just five of 26 companies included in an annual survey of 8,361 customers Recommended Provider status, saying customer service was what made the best stand out.
The top five were Jet2holidays, Kuoni, Trailfinders, Inghams and Hays Travel, while Europe’s largest OTA eDreams ODIGEO was rated bottom.
Other online holiday brands like On The Beach, Expedia, easyJet Holidays, loveholidays and lastminute.com were also ranked in the bottom half.
Which stopped short of castigating any brands for their performance, but said: “While there were few companies to perform truly poorly in the survey, with even lowest scoring eDreams receiving four stars in some categories, the factor that separated the top performers in the table from those with lower rankings generally emerged as customer service, with a large number of firms further down the table receiving middling scores of three stars.
“Travellers with big name brands like lastminute.com, loveholidays, easyJet Holidays and On The Beach were all generally satisfied with their holidays, with none receiving a customer score of less than 70%. However, these companies failed to deliver the exceptional, five-star levels of customer service reported by those at the top of the table.”
In a statement to Which? Opodo parent eDreams ODIGEO argued it was not relevant to compare its products with traditional package holiday providers.
The firm said “it is not accurate to compare eDreams to other companies that specialise in a more traditional package holiday offering.” The statement continued: “eDreams provides ‘dynamic packages’, which are bespoke combinations that package flights and hotels only.
“This product is based exclusively on the components selected by the customer and is not curated nor organised by eDreams.”
Which? says it compares more traditional package alongside dynamic package providers “as they are both deemed to be packages and mean the provider has certain legal responsibilities under the Package Travel Regulations”.
The survey gives a star rating for firms against seven criteria, some of which are more closely associated with traditional packages including the ‘organisation of the holiday’, the ‘holiday representative’, and ‘transport to and from destination’.
EDreams also said it takes “great care” to provide accurate descriptions and provides photos, maps, and reviews of properties for added transparency.
The firm also claimed its Net Promoter Score is up 33 points in the last 12 months and it has seen a 65% improvement in call answering times compared to pre-pandemic to an average of 95 seconds.
“We are incredibly proud of the customer service we provide to our 17 million global customers,” the OTA said.
“Since the pandemic, we have successfully supported 5.2 million customers whose flights have been disrupted and on average 6,000 customers a day receive a resolution to travel disruption because of support provided by eDreams.”
Other firms that issued a right of reply to Which? pointed out that the survey was unrepresentative of the scale of their businesses and the challenges they have faced.
EasyJet Holidays said: “Against the backdrop of travel restrictions and challenges faced across the industry, we were really pleased to take over 1.1 million customers away in 2022, which saw us deliver our first fully operational year.
“Our customers are at the heart of all we do, so we’re delighted to have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the tens of thousands of customers we’ve surveyed over the past 12 months.
“This survey of 426 easyJet holidays customers isn’t at all reflective of the fantastic experiences our customers tell us they’re having day in, day out and why we’re proud to offer brilliant holidays at unbeatable prices.”
A statement from lastminute.com said: “Customer satisfaction is our highest priority, and we are always trying to improve our processes to provide the best possible products and assistance to our customers.
“It is important to acknowledge that this comparative table doesn’t reflect the extreme complexity of the travel ecosystem with very diverse products and services.
“While every piece of customer feedback is valuable and we’ll take onboard the findings provided by Which?, we believe the sample of this survey is far from representing the British travellers.
“139 respondents is a very small sample of consumers considering the millions of travellers that rely on lastminute.com every year.
“The survey ran by Which? covers travels since 2019 without considering the extreme circumstances of COVID-19 pandemic and the complexity of the industry, causing widespread disruption to travellers across the globe.
“Despite this situation being completely out of our control, we have never stopped striving for success and working closely with our partners to offer a package that matches the needs of the customers.”
Holiday giant Tui, which was ranked 19 in between On The Beach and easyJet Holidays, said: “As a multi-award winning – and the UK’s largest travel company – this tiny survey isn’t at all reflective of the feedback we receive from our customers who enjoy holidaying with us every year.
“We continue to do everything we can for our customers and look forward to delivering our brilliant holidays for them.”
Jo Rhodes, deputy editor of Which? Travel, said: “After an incredibly disruptive few years for travellers, our survey found good customer service puts the best companies ahead of the pack.
“With some respondents complaining that their providers were difficult to get hold of when things went wrong, Jet2holidays and Kuoni distinguished themselves by offering travellers support every step of the way.
“Next year, those booking with Which? Recommended Providers will have peace of mind that the price they are quoted is the price they will pay, as these firms have all committed to not levying surcharges if confronted with rising costs.”
A key question Which? asked holiday providers was whether they would rule out adding a surcharge to prices after booking this year, as they are entitled to by law to mitigate costs like oil prices rise, taxes and exchange rate fluctuations.
All of five of the Recommended Providers were able to pledge they will not add a surcharge in 2023. However, others like Virgin Holidays, sixth overall in the survey, were not able to provide this reassurance and so were not given Recommended Provider status.