Passengers pan British Airways as strike threat looms

Troubled British Airways has been given the thumbs down by customers in an annual airline satisfaction survey.

British Airways is preparing for strike action and has received poor ratings in a customer survey. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
British Airways is preparing for strike action and has received poor ratings in a customer survey. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

The flag carrier suffered a decline in customer score and in star ratings across several categories.

BA’s poor results come after about 2,000 cabin crew voted overwhelmingly for strikes in a dispute over pay.

The staff, who represent around 15 per cent of the airline’s cabin crew, were balloted about the plan to strike at Heathrow.

The vote follows the rejection of a proposed two per cent pay rise.

Strike action could begin after 21 December but union chiefs have not confirmed whether industrial action would affect travellers over Christmas.

Turkish Airlines was rated top short-haul operator by consumer watchdog Which? in its satisfaction survey. It scored five star ratings for food and drink as well as seat comfort, achieving an overall customer score of 80 per cent.

Second place went to Guernsey’s Aurigny Air Services while SAS Scandinavian Airlines finished third in the poll of more than 7,500 Which? members.

In last year’s survey, BA scored four out of five stars for food and drink, but it scored just two stars this year.

And BA achieved a value for money rating of just two stars in the latest survey, compared to three stars last year.

Ryanair and Easyjet score even worse for food and drink in the short-haul survey, both receiving scathing one star reviews from passengers.

Ryanair finished third bottom in the overall league table of 35 airlines. It received a score of just 50 per cent, with only Iberia, on 49 per cent, and Vueling Airlines, on 41 per cent, achieving lower customer satisfaction ratings.

Spanish low cost operator Vueling, owned by the same parent company as BA, was the only airline not to achieve a single three star rating in any category.

Singapore Airlines was the standout long haul performer in the survey.

The carrier, which flies from Britain to Singapore and the US, received a string of full marks across various categories, and was awarded five stars out of five for food and drink, in-flight entertainment and cabin environment.

Singapore’s overall customer score of 91 per cent was the highest mark for an economy class airline in the annual survey for eight years.

The top three long-haul airlines list was completed by Emirates and KLM, with all scoring at least three stars in every category.

They also charge less than 1.5 per cent for paying by credit card. In the last year several airlines have cut or removed credit card charges entirely and no airline can be a Which? Recommended Provider if they charge more than 1.5 per cent.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: “The results of our annual flight survey show that some of the big name airlines need to step up their game.

“Passengers have made it clear that a wide range of improvements are needed in both short-haul and long-haul, and the disappointing scores for the in-flight refreshments certainly provide food for thought for airlines.”

He added: “A total of 35 airlines were rated by customers in our latest survey.

“A budget airline owned by the same company as British Airways came last in our latest league table of short-haul airlines.

“We polled more than 7,500 members to ask about their experience of both short-haul and long-haul flights.

“Singapore Airlines topped the long-haul list with an impressive customer score of 91 per cent, while Turkish Airlines came top of the short-haul carriers, with 80 per cent.

“BA and Vueling Airlines, owned by BA’s parent group IAG, achieved a dismal customer score of 41 per cent.

“Vueling’s former chief, Alex Cruz, last year became chief executive of BA; some passengers have told Which? they feel that BA is ‘moving in the direction’ of the budget airlines.

“One of Mr Cruz’s first major decisions was to scrap free food on BA flights of less than five hours. Instead, the airline now offers a £7.55 Marks & Spencer sandwich deal, which was met with controversy on social media.

“When we polled a further 1,500 members for their views, 81 per cent felt that ticket prices should be reduced as a result. So far, Which? has seen no sign of this.

“Food on BA’s long-haul flights is included in the ticket cost, but customers don’t rate it highly - it got just two stars out of five. As recently as 2013, it received four stars in our survey. In 2014 and 2015 this was three stars. In January 2016 and in the latest survey it received just two stars.”

He added: “The bottom three in our short-haul table were Ryanair, with a mediocre score of 50 per cent, followed by Iberia (49 per cent) and Vueling.

“Both Ryanair and Easyjet scored worse for food and drink in the short-haul survey than BA, receiving just one star out of five from passengers.

“Easyjet got an overall customer score of 63 per cent, while the highest-scoring no-frills carrier was holiday sun specialist Jet2, with 71 per cent. The UK-based carrier also became a Which? Recommended Provider.

“BA received a customer score of 67 per cent for short-haul and 60 per cent for long-haul flights. Other national flag-carriers got lower scores; for long-haul Air Canada came second from last with 46 per cent (just above United Airlines, which got 44 per cent).

“Among short-haul carriers, Spain’s flag-bearer Iberia achieved just 49 per cent. The company is also owned by BA’s parent company IAG.”