Air New Zealand and Swiss soar in passenger surveyBut UK airlines fly low compared to foreign rivals

22 June 2010

Airline cabin

Flight tickets are not protected

The airlines most likely to get your holiday off to a flying start aren't those that call the UK home, according to the latest Which? airlines satisfaction survey.

In the long-haul airlines category, national flag-carrier British Airways lags winner Air New Zealand and second and third-placed Singapore Airlines and Emirates by some distance. Fierce rival Virgin Atlantic did better, but still only managed to achieve seventh place in the 17 carrier survey. 

UK-based charter flight giants Thomson Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines came 14th and 15th respectively, with only United Airlines and South African Airways putting in a worse performance.

Short-haul shortcomings

The troubles for British Airways - in a year marred by cabin crew strikes and record losses - continue in the short-haul airlines category. The self-styled 'World's Favourite Airline' came 11th overall in the poll topped by Swiss, Aer Lingus, and Air Malta. Best rated British airline was no-frills Exeter-based Flybe.

In the battle of the no-frills giants, Easyjet did significantly better than Ryanair. The Irish airline only narrowly missed out on last place thanks to a truly abysmal showing from Thomas Cook Airlines.

Dirty planes

Rochelle Turner, Head of Research for Which? Holiday, said: 'Flying with a good-quality airline, such as Swiss or Air New Zealand, can really make a difference to your holiday. No one wants their trip abroad to start in a cramped or dirty plane.

'Our rigorous research shows that while the cost of flights is important to customers, it's things like friendly cabin staff and reasonable luggage allowances that leave a lasting impression.'

If you've received poor service from an airline then check out the Which? advice guides to flight rights, or what to do if you were caught up in the disruption caused by the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland.

Full results

Long haul airlines
AirlineValue for moneyChecked in baggage allowanceCleanlinessLeg roomFood and beveragesInflight entertainmentScore
Air New Zealandgoodgoodexcellentgoodgoodexcellent86%
Singapore Airlinesgoodgoodexcellentgoodgoodexcellent85%
Thai Airways Internationalgoodgoodgoodgoodgoodpoor76%
Cathay Pacificgoodgoodgoodgoodgoodgood75%
Virgin Atlanticsatisfactorygoodgoodsatisfactorysatisfactorygood67%
Delta Airlinessatisfactorygoodgoodpoorsatisfactorysatisfactory61%
Air Canadapoorgoodgoodsatisfactorysatisfactorysatisfactory60%
British Airwayssatisfactorygoodgoodsatisfactorysatisfactorygood58%
American Airlinessatisfactorygoodsatisfactorypoorsatisfactorysatisfactory55%
Thomson Airways/First Choicen/aagoodsatisfactorysatisfactorypoorsatisfactory51%
Thomas Cook Airlinessatisfactoryasatisfactorysatisfactorysatisfactorypoorpoor49%
United Airlinespoorgoodsatisfactorypoorpoorpoor45%
South African Airwayspoorgoodsatisfactorypoorpoorpoor37%

Table notes

Sample sizes: Air New Zealand (61), Singapore Airlines (78), Emirates (165), Thai Airways International (55), Cathay Pacific (44), Qantas (73), Virgin Atlantic (403), Delta Airlines (43), Air Canada (81), Continental (77) British Airways (648), KLM (55), American Airlines (97), Thomson Airways/First Choice (80), Thomas Cook Airlines (95), United Airlines (48), South African Airways (41). Total sample size was 2,144

n/a – not enough responses. Cleanliness Aircraft interior and toilets. Customer score Based on overall satisfaction and likelihood to recommend.

  1. Excludes respondents who booked as part of a package
Short haul airlines
AirlineValue for moneyChecked bag allowanceCleanlinessLeg roomSeating arrangementsDealing with delaysScore
Aer Lingussatisfactorysatisfactorygoodsatisfactorygoodn/a71%
Air Maltasatisfactorygoodgoodsatisfactorygoodn/a68%
Cyprus Airlinessatisfactorygoodn/asatisfactorygoodn/a64%
SAS Scandinavian Airlinessatisfactorygoodgoodsatisfactorygoodn/a63%
TAP Air Portugalsatisfactorygoodn/asatisfactorygoodn/a62%
British Airwayssatisfactorygoodgoodsatisfactorygoodsatisfactory60%
Thomson Airwayspoorasatisfactorysatisfactorypoorsatisfactorysatisfactory46%
Monarch Airlinespoorpoorsatisfactorypoorsatisfactorysatisfactory45%
Ryanairsatisfactoryvery poorpoorpoorpoorpoor43%
Thomas Cook Airlinespoorapoorpoorvery poorsatisfactorypoor37%

Full features table

Table notes

Sample size: Swiss (55), Aer Lingus (88), ir Malta (69), KLM (71), Cyprus, Airlines (30), Lufthansa (63), SAS Scandinavian Airlines (53), Flybe (304), TAP Air Portugal (46), BMI (94), British Airways (671), (151), EasyJet (1,262), BmiBaby (115), Thomson Airways (643), Monarch Airlines(364), Ryanair (623), Thomas Cook Airlines (327). Total sample size was 5,029

n/a – not enough responses. Cabin staff Efficiency and politeness. Cleanliness Aircraft interior and toilets. Seating arrangements Allocation and boarding. Customer score Based on overall satisfaction and likelihood to recommend.

  1. Excludes respondents who booked as part of a package