Budget airline Ryanair has been ranked the worst short-haul service by travellers.
A report by Which? found Ryanair scored badly for luggage allowances, boarding process, legroom and its quality of food and drink, generating a score of just 32 per cent.
At the other end of the scale was Guernsey-based Aurigny Air Services, which drew a four-star rating and an overall score of 87 per cent after impressing customers with its 20kg hold luggage allowance and free in-flight drinks.
Swiss International Air Lines – which has held the top spot for the past three years – Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA and Turkish Airlines completed the top four.
The consumer watchdog, which polled 12,750 of its members on their flying experiences, said it had not taken into account recent changes announced by Ryanair, which included a move to allocated seating and a reduction in baggage fees.
“It won’t surprise many to see Ryanair receiving a customer score of just 32 per cent,” said the report.
“It’s possible the results could change next year, though. Our survey covers people’s flying experiences for the 12 months up to October 2013. But since then, Ryanair has announced a programme of changes, including a move to allocated seating and a reduction in baggage fees from 5 January, 2014.”
Chief executive Michael O’Leary, who has issued two profit warnings for Ryanair since September, admitted last month that rival budget airline EasyJet had “wiped the floor with us” after introducing allocated seating and other customer services improvements.
“We can learn from the bits they have done well,” he said.
A spokesman for the airline said: “Ryanair’s 81 million passengers clearly prove we are Europe’s favourite airline. It’s strange that while Ryanair continues to grow its traffic, airlines who rank higher in this survey continue to lose passengers.
“Clearly these dubious Which? surveys do not reflect what flight choices consumers are making on a daily basis.”
Despite being ranked the best short-haul airline, Which? said it would not give Aurigny its Which? Recommended Provider (WRP) status due to the £2 surcharge it imposes on credit card bookings.
Which? has spearheaded a campaign against high charges on card bookings, arguing any fee should cover only the extra cost incurred by the company for processing a debit or credit card fee.
A spokesman for the watchdog said: “As part of our ongoing campaign against excessive surcharges, Which? reviews airline credit card charges before awarding WRPs. Aurigny charges a fee of £2 per person per one-way flight, which we believe to be proportionately excessive. For this reason it has not been awarded a WRP.
“Aurigny plans to reduce this charge in 2014. Once in place we will reconsider its WRP status.”
Malcolm Coupar, commercial director of Aurigny, which runs flights from the Channel Islands to five mainland UK destinations, said: “We are a small airline based in the Channel Islands, so to be voted the best short-haul carrier is a tremendous accolade. To sit above some of the most famous names in the airline industry is an achievement of which we are very proud.”
In the long-haul market, Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines were ranked joint first, with both airlines boasting five stars for in-flight entertainment, food and drink, punctuality of flight and value for money.
Spanish airline Iberia landed at the bottom of the table, receiving a 28 per cent customer score – 9 per cent lower than Thomas Cook Airlines, which came second-bottom.
“Our survey reveals the massive variation in the standard of airlines,” said Which? executive director Richard Lloyd.
Which? also ranked airlines according to their performance in transporting passengers to 11 destinations from the UK.
Ryanair was ranked bottom of the table for all six of the 11 routes it operates, while British Airways was named top for five out of eight of the destinations to which it flies.
Iberia was not available for comment.