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Ryanair and the worst airlines in the UK revealed

Budget carrier ranks last, and well behind rivals Jet2 and easyJet

Ryanair has once again been rated the worst airline in the UK by passengers.

This is the sixth year running Ryanair has finished bottom of the Which? Travel annual airline survey. Passengers gave the airline the lowest possible rating for boarding, seat comfort, food and drink, and cabin environment.

It was also ranked far worse than its main rival, easyJet. Ryanair achieved a customer score of 40%, compared with 63% for easyJet. Meanwhile Which? Recommended Provider Jet2 continues to impress with a customer score of 75% and high ratings for its service, seats and how it boards passengers.

In our 2017 survey British Airways scored just 50% for its short haul service. It promised to improve. Read the full results of our best and worst airlines survey to find out if it has

The rest of the worst airlines

The other names at the bottom of our short-haul airlines rankings were Thomas Cook Airlines (52%) and Wizz Air (54%), a budget carrier mostly flying to central and eastern Europe. Wizz Air was the only other carrier to share a two-star rating for customer service with Ryanair. Despite this, Ryanair remains out on its own as the worst airline in the UK.

Ryanair cancels flights

Ryanair’s terrible 12-months began when it announced in autumn 2017 it did not have enough pilots for scheduled flights. In an unprecedented fiasco 400,000 people were told their flights had been cancelled. More than 40 flights a day were axed. A further 18 million people were left wondering whether their flights, many of them to visit family or friends over Christmas, would ultimately be affected.

The PR fallout was worsened by Ryanair’s initial claim that it would disregard EU rule on rerouting affecting passengers. If an airline can’t get customers home within a reasonable time, it’s obliged to pay for them to travel with a competitor. Ryanair thought that it could ignore this law. ‘We will not pay for flights on other airlines,’ boss Michael O’Leary said.

It was only after Which? highlighted the fact Ryanair had an obligation to get passengers home in reasonable time – and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) threatened enforcement action – that it was forced to back down.

Can pay. Won’t pay

Thousands more Ryanair passengers saw their flights cancelled towards the end of 2018 as pilots and cabin crew staged a strike. Under EU law, flights cancelled at short notice should have brought the consolation of a decent pay-out – from €250-€400 for short-haul. However, although the CAA told Ryanair that its cancellations caused by its own employees were eligible for compensation, the airline refused to pay out.

At the end of 2018 the CAA began enforcement action against Ryanair over this as well.

Ever changing luggage rules

Tinkering with luggage rules also infuriated passengers. In January, Ryanair introduced a policy which meant that passengers who wanted a guarantee that they could bring a wheelie suitcase or similar sized bag into the cabin had to pay £5 for priority boarding. Everybody else had their case checked into the hold. In May, this fee went up to £6 on most routes.

In November, Ryanair changed the rules again. It banned wheelie suitcases and anything larger than a handbag from the cabin, unless you purchased priority boarding. That cost £6, but was only available to the first 90 passengers – with everyone else forced to pay £8 for a larger wheelie cabin bag, which had then to be placed in the hold.

Passengers were confused. One told Which?: ‘There are too many rules. I worry about getting caught with hidden costs.’

Declining punctuality and reputation

In the past, Ryanair had always prided itself on its good punctuality record but this too has got worse. In our survey, 32% of Ryanair passengers told us they had faced delays last year. The CAA’s statistics show that Ryanair’s punctuality fell to 68%, down from 76% last year.

The budget airline’s reputation has declined so much that thousands of respondents told us that they would never again fly Ryanair, even if it was cheaper than its rivals. Of those who said there was one airline with which they’d never travel, 70% named Ryanair.

Ryanair responds

Ryanair denied it had experienced significant problems as a result of the 2018 strikes, arguing that 90% of schedules remained operational on strike days. It also said that ‘it delivers industry-leading customer service’ and claimed that its bag policy has been ‘simplified’ by recent changes. It claimed that decreased punctuality in 2018 was largely due to Air Traffic Control strikes and added: ‘We’ve invested heavily in delivering on-time departures.’ It insists that passengers will continue to book with Ryanair as ‘having the lowest prices wins every time’.

Each year Which? Travel  rates airlines, airport lounges and car hire companies based on customer satisfaction. With no advertising, we can be completely independent and unbiased. Find out more about Which? Travel, from our surveys to our investigations. 

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