Which? sentiment polling puts Ryanair and BA at bottom of short-haul airlines

Which? sentiment polling puts Ryanair and BA at bottom of short-haul airlines

Both carriers were criticised for their approach to COVID refunds by the consumer watchdog

The reputation of both British Airways and Ryanair plummeted due to their poor record on refunds during the pandemic, latest polling by Which? has found.

The duo came bottom of the consumer group’s annual survey of short-haul airlines, with both carriers rated down for providing poor customer service to passengers with disrupted flights.

By contrast, Jet2 topped of the table and earned a Which? Recommended Provider endorsement.

Its record on delivering refunds was the best – more than eight in ten (84%) respondents were satisfied with the outcome when their flight was disrupted because of Covid, and most passengers received a resolution in two weeks throughout the pandemic.

Nine in ten Jet2 customers told Which? they got a full refund, rather than having a voucher foisted upon them.

Its Covid flexibility policy was one of the best, allowing customers to make fee-free changes for most pandemic-related disruption, including lockdowns, quarantines and changing Foreign Office advice

The consumer champion surveyed more than 1,300 passengers for their experiences of flying with short-haul airlines in areas such as boarding, cabin cleanliness, customer service and value for money since November 2019.

In a second part of the survey, Which? asked more than 1,100 passengers whose flights were disrupted how satisfied they were with how their airline handled the issue.

The actions of some airlines – delaying or denying refunds for flights cancelled, or which passengers could not take, due to Covid – were reflected in the results.

Ryanair received an overall customer score of 55% and 47% in the refund satisfaction category, with one in five customers telling Which? it took them more than a month to get a refund.

The no-frills carrier has been a fixture in the bottom three of the Which? airline survey for more than a decade.

When asked, ‘Is there an airline you would never fly with?’, three-quarters (74%) named Ryanair.

Ryanair scored no better than two stars for all the measures in the main customer satisfaction survey – apart from value for money, where it scored three stars.

BA was second from bottom with a customer score of 63% – just behind Tui Airways, but with a much lower refund satisfaction score.

Passengers reported spending hours on hold only to be hung up on, or passed endlessly between different departments.

However, BA’s cabins ranked as joint cleanest alongside KLM and Jet2.

EasyJet achieved an overall customer score of 70% and a 65% refund satisfaction rating. KLM came second to Jet2 with a customer score of 75%.

Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “Ryanair’s consistently terrible customer service has made it a fixture among the worst performers in our surveys for many years – but the airline plumbed new depths with its handling of Covid refunds.

“BA’s reputation also deservedly took a battering when it took a hard line on refunds for passengers who could not travel because they followed government health guidance.

“Many passengers will not forget how they were treated by companies during the pandemic.

“Covid could still cause disruption to international travel, so we would advise travellers to book with operators that have flexible booking policies and a record of treating their customers fairly.”

Which? surveyed more than 1,300 passengers last October for their experiences of flying with six short-haul airlines since November 2019 and 1,124 people who suffered a disrupted flight since March 2020 also gave their views.

A BA spokesperson said: “We’re proud that we were the first UK airline to offer customers the flexibility to amend their plans at the beginning of the pandemic, by providing vouchers that they can use up to September 2023.

“If we cancel a flight we always contact customers to offer a range of options including a full refund. We’ve issued more than 4.2 million refunds and have dealt with more than 3.3 million voucher requests to date.

“However, we know we can do better and we’re working hard behind the scenes, upgrading our phone systems and recruiting more people to deliver a better and faster customer experience that we know our customers deserve.

“We never take our customers’ loyalty for granted and appreciate their patience as our teams work around the clock to support them.”

The airline’s chief executive Sean Doyle has highlighted customer call centre issues as the top priority to resolve. 

Jet2 chief executive Steve Heapy said: “The past two years have been the most challenging in history for the entire travel industry and the way different companies have responded will be remembered for a long time.

“We are very proud to have been repeatedly recognised for the way we have looked after customers and independent travel agents.

“If customers travel with us, or if their plans have to change, we have done the right thing by them.”

He added: “With travel returning to normality, our track record for looking after customers means we are really benefitting from the strong return in demand. We know customers want assurance more than ever.”