British Airways and Ryanair have taken two of the bottom three spots in Which? Travel's annual airlines survey, with passengers especially disappointed by the so-called 'extras' that they felt obliged to buy.
Ryanair passengers rated it one star for boarding, seat comfort, food and drink, cabin environment and customer service. Even value for money - supposedly the great strength of the budget airline - got just two stars. Its overall customer score was only 44%.
But it's British Airways score that may shock its millions of passengers. The UK's flag carrier came third from bottom of the short-haul table, with a customer score of 55%. That's well below easyJet (65%) and many other budget airlines. It received two-star ratings for seat comfort, food and drink, and value for money. British Airways' long-haul experience was also mediocre, receiving the same 55% customer score.
One of the biggest complaints about Ryanair and BA was the fact that elements of the flight that, in the past, would have been included in any ticket now have to be paid for separately. Ryanair is the only major airline that now charges for taking a cabin bag on board. British Airways no longer includes complimentary drinks and food on short-haul fares. These 'extras' left many passengers feeling short-changed.
Two in five of BA's passengers said the food wasn't worth the money on short-haul economy. One complained about 'warm wine in a plastic glass' and another that the meal they'd bought 'wouldn't feed a small child'. However, a number of passengers didn't even get a chance to try the food - they said it had ran out before the trolley reached the back of the plane.
Ryanair's food was even worse - with 49% saying it wasn't worth the money. But it was the airline's baggage and 'priority boarding' policies that really got passengers riled up.
Several respondents were bewildered as to why, after paying for 'priority boarding', they were left standing in a long queue of other people who had done exactly the same thing. The answer is that Ryanair requires passengers to pay for priority boarding if they want to take a normal-sized wheelie case in to the cabin. This is capped at 95 passengers, which is around half the plane.
One passenger summed the service up as, 'you do get priority - but just to board a bus. Once the bus arrives at the plane, there's a free-for-all to get to your seat.'
Ryanair and British Airways customer scores are in sharp contrast to those achieved by the best performing carriers.
On long-haul, Asian and Middle Eastern flyers mostly leave their European or American rivals behind. Singapore (88%), Qatar (79%) and Emirates (76%) are the star performers but Virgin Atlantic gets a highly respectable 72%. At the bottom of the table, BA (55%) sits just above American Airlines, which got a dismal 48%.