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The best and worst airlines 2017

Which?'s annual airline survey provides bad news for some of Britain's biggest carriers

The best and worst airlines 2017

British Airways falls and Ryanair hits the bottom

Ryanair’s troubled year of flight cancellations has added another dent to its public image, with passengers rating it the joint worst short-haul airline in the UK.

Almost one in three passengers told us that they’d never fly with the low-cost carrier, even if was cheaper than the competition. From those who did venture on board, it received a customer score of just 45% – joint lowest with Vueling for short-haul flights. The customer service, cabin environment, boarding process, and food and drink on offer were all rated just two stars out of five by passengers.

Yet there’s proof that flying with a budget airline doesn’t mean having a bad experience.

Which? Recommended Providers Norwegian and Jet2 gained high customer scores of 76%, including four stars for customer service. Norwegian was also the only airline to get a four-star rating for value for money for its short-haul flights.

Even more impressive is tiny Channel-Islands hopper, Aurigny, which topped the table with a score of 80% and four-star ratings for boarding, cabin environment and customer service.

Best and worst airlines table – full results of our airline survey

Bad year for British Airways

British Airways cancellations may have done even more damage to its public image. Its customer scores of 52% for short-haul flights and 50% for long-haul are the worst it’s had since Which? introduced customer scores. It’s fallen behind Easyjet for short-haul flights, and for long-haul flights it’s rated worse than Thomas Cook and Thomson for the first time ever.

A year of relentless bad publicity for BA, with decisions such as scrapping food on short-haul flights annoying some previously loyal customers, appears to have cost it dearly. It received just two stars for food and drink on both short and long-haul. Seat comfort and value for money were also rated with just two stars.

Long-haul heroes and villains

In long-haul, Asian carriers are showing their European and American counterparts how it’s done. Singapore (88%), Emirates (82%), Qatar (78%) and Cathay Pacific (75%) are all at the top of the table. Only Virgin Atlantic (71%) comes close to keeping up.

And, while five of the top six airlines in our long-haul table are based in Asia, the bottom seven are all based in the UK and North America. By far the worst are United Airlines, who also had a terrible year, with footage of a customer being dragged screaming off one of its planes going viral. It received a customer score of just 39% and had a string of two-star ratings.

Unfortunately, Singapore and Emirates have both had Which? Recommended Provider status withheld this year. Both of them, along with Turkish Airlines, Etihad and American, were threatened with ‘enforcement action’ by the Civil Aviation Authority in 2017 for failure to pay flight delay compensation when delays are caused by missed connections outside the EU. Turkish Airlines is now compliant with the rules and Singapore has told us that it intends to be compliant, but the others are yet to confirm.

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