Unhappy reading for BA as ‘Which?’ releases its 2013 airline survey

I’ve got hold of a copy of ‘Which?’ magazines 2013 airline quality survey, which does not make incredibly happy reading for British Airways. It looked at both short haul and long haul services from the UK.

Short Haul

‘Which?’ has a big subscriber base, which allowed it to attract 5,600 flight reviews from its readers panel. Each flight was rated in terms of baggage allowance, boarding arrangements, cabin environment, airline staff and value for money. (You may ask yourself how well people can remember some of these factors, given that many will be reporting on flights taken a few months before they filled in the survey.)

Amusingly, the highest-rated European airline was Swiss, which scored an 82% overall rating. I say ‘Amusingly’ because – despite beating Turkish Airlines by 4% – ‘Which?’ refused to give it a ‘Recommended Provider’ award because of their £4.50 credit charge surcharge! I agree that £4.50 is often disproportionate, but since ‘Which?’ readers were still happy to vote for the airline it seems odd not to give it the prize!


British Airways limps in 6th, at 67%, tied with KLM. It sits behind Aer Lingus (?) and Lufthansa as well as the top two.

Ironically, BA only scores badly on ‘value for money’. It gets full marks for baggage allowance and 4/5 for the other key factors.

Jet2, interestingly, is the highest rated budget carrier at 61%.

Long Haul

This is a more worrying result for BA. Based on 3,430 trip reports, British Airways only manages to limp into 12th place at 65%. Virgin Atlantic does not do much better, coming in one place higher with 69%.

BA falls down again on ‘value for money’ and, unlike short haul, ‘cabin environment’.

(It seems a little odd to mark down BA for ‘value for money’, given that the respondents would have had a choice of airline when they flew. Did they choose BA even though other airlines were cheaper? If BA was the cheapest option, how can it not offer ‘value for money’?)

The winner was Air New Zealand with 86%, followed by Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Emirates, all of whom scored above 80%.

What is interesting here – as we are talking about economy travel – is that some of the airlines that beat British Airways have more high density seating in economy, especially on their newest aircraft. This does not yet seem to have fed back into decreased rankings, however.

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  1. Nice to see NZ top the longhaul list; it is my own favourite airline too. Cannot believe LX came tops, I really dont like them, and that is with the benefit of over 50k premium cabin .iles with them 2 years back. Value for money on BA I think is a perception issue. For example, they often offer some great value lime WTP to BKK for £899 in last premium seat sale but fares that stick in your mind somehow are ludicrouse economy fares of around same price at other times, or the £5900+ CW flight I priced up a few days ago from GLA. I can do the same thing on EK most of the tear for half the price on EK and avoid transitting LHR. Althougb I lime privacy CW offers me as a solo traveller, I think many of us are now tiring a little with the product. Also density in C class does not come any higher than CW. I Flew 10 across eco omy on an EK flight some years ago. It was simply awful. Cannot imagine wgy anybody would rate it anything other than lowest score in a survey.

  2. If Which? attracted 5600 reviews that probably means that 95% is BA, Easyjet and Ryan Air which are biggest airlines in the UK. That means that all other airlines reviews are poorly sampled and it really end score of those will be heavily affected by a small group of reviewers or maybe even an individual. This may throw up some surprises.

    Nevertheless BA is certain not the best out there.

  3. Not a surprise really for anyone who flies more than 3or 4 times a year. BA have a huge advantage at LHR and have successfully exploited this in that they charge exorbitant fares (for uk originating passengers) and offer products and services that are well behind the competition. Their fees for everything approach is also really irritating be it credit card fees, baggage fees, change fees or the rip off fuel fees they call taxes. Some respondents will be disaffected Avios collectors who havering spent years collecting( without the benefit of forums and blogs such as this one) will then have discovered the fees and taxes rip off which in some circumstances mean it would be cheaper to simply buy a ticket. This is appalling value and it sticks in people’s mind and all this before they step on board old, dirty and increasingly unreliable aircraft crewed by people who really should find other work.
    That they managed the top 20 is pretty remarkable really!

  4. squillion says:

    Bit more positive on BA than some of you as regards VFM, on my European route at least they are competitive if you factor in luggage and snacks. They could do with being a bit more sexist, beautist and ageist in their cabin crew recruitment, though 😉

  5. Not surprissed BA scores low, was on one of the Gatwick 737s yesterday in row 12 (exit row). One word to describe it has ‘tatty’, with ripped seat covers. The 747s are also the same in econony and prem economy. Once BA get’s rid of its 737 at LGW and replaces its 747 and 767s I think the score will be much higher.

  6. I’d agree with Squillion on that one. My ex was a cabin crew manager for BA, and most of them she managed is what you would describe as ‘matronly’ and ‘well journeyed’ (Probably something to do with the unions, career link and working to pension age).

    Virgin on the other hand… I think Mr.Branson has some sort of ‘screening’ process that goes under the radar of the equality act.

    • Yes you are correct about Branson, my ex worked for Virgin, but Branson’s comments on the subject of recruitment arent for repeating on here!

  7. Your comments about the conclusions drawn by Which remind me why I cancelled my Which membership years ago!

  8. I detect some editorialising in the review of the Which? report 😉 and will wait until I see the full report before coming to conclusions.

    One problem for BA is its size and its difficulty in ensuring common standards, and Paul above makes some interesting comments. A recent day trip to Milan in Club Europe showed this. Outbound, the cabin crew were stars and couldn’t be beaten, even addressing us by name on every occasion. Inbound they could scarcely be bothered; they did what they had to do in a characterless fashion and retreated behind the curtain for the rest of the flight engaging in their own personal conversation which continued even as we disembarked. No goodbye for us. 😀 The latter sadly is all too typical.

    As for Which? reviews, they are at their best when comparing products and services objectively. For airlines, they have no adequate budget and rely on their members. I imagine they have some kind of weighting to give regular travellers and once a year fliers relative prominence.

    However, my degree in scepticism was enhanced by a credit card review some years ago when the Which? credit card was awarded a Best Buy. It was a bog standard MBNA card with some kind of members’ preferential legal Q&A service. Best Buy, huh?

    Oh, yes. About the SWISS credit card fee, didn’t they realise that (most) BA customers in the UK also pay a £4.50 fee?

  9. Paul’s comment anticipated mine:
    Some respondents will be disaffected Avios collectors who having spent years collecting( without the benefit of forums and blogs such as this one) will then have discovered the fees and taxes rip off which in some circumstances mean it would be cheaper to simply buy a ticket.

    Part of the problem is British taxes, but BA adds its own fees, seriously devaluing the value of its miles.

    • I don’t know if BA / Airmiles’ marketing was particularly good, but I can’t understand why anyone would spend 4 years collecting Avios for one long haul redemption instead of using clubcard exchanges to reduce their grocery shopping costs and then buying a ticket on easyJet.

  10. There’s no way I’d trust the judgment of a load of which readers! In fact, I’d go as far as to say this survey is completely useless. I doubt there is any consistency at all in what they deem good between airlines.

  11. flyforfun says:

    As a long time Which? member, I take their results like this with a pinch of salt. When Saga came out as a top provider recently, and also some obscure, but expensive travel agency, you know the demographics of the membership is likely to be upper middle class and also probably in the 50+ age bracket.

    Interestingly, in the October Which? magazine that I got yesterday, there is a major piece on customer service. BA came joint 20th – along with charter firm Thomson, Virgin joint 51st, Flybe and Thomas Cook at joint 56, Easyjet joint 68th, and Ryanair the only one at the bottom at 100. No mention of Monarch or Jet2 or other airlines in top 100. So does that mean Ryanair is better than those that didn’t list? So how does it rate in the survey Raffles mentions?

    In the blurb as “top airline” it say BA gets 4 stars for communication, and 3 stars for the rest of it’s service. How does Air NZ rate for service? Not mentioned so far, but it’s no good to me as I’m never likely to fly to NZ. I may consider their LAX service, but I’ve got two oneworld partners that fly there and earn me points. (no current star alliance points).

    It would make more sense to see “best airline to” categories, ie best to Australia, New York, South America, etc so that you can judge what’s relevant. I’d rather some element of any survey like this took into account the hard product first form an independent assessment and then added an element of customer satisfaction from travelling passengers.

  12. > If BA was the cheapest option, how can it not offer ‘value for money’?
    I can sell you two cars. One is a crash damaged 1997 Ford Mondeo for £15,000. The other is a brand new Bugatti Veyron for £16,000. One of these offers excellent value for money whilst the other offers incredibly poor value for money. I’ll give you a hint … the cheapest option does not offer ‘value for money’.

  13. creampuff says:

    Just as a headsup for anybody that has (a) travelled business class in Europe and (b) never travelled business class in the rest of the world, the European business class is a hopeless joke – as the seats are the same economy class seats as in the back of the plane, just with the middle seat blocked out.

    If you travel regional business class (ie short haul) in the real world, the seats are about what you would expect in longhaul premium economy or maybe a bit better.