Budget airline Wizz Air has been named the worst short-haul airline by Which?, coming bottom of a ranking that is topped by Jet2.
The 2023 ranking was produced by a survey the consumer champion conducted of over 8,000 UK travellers, who were invited to rate carriers they’d used on a range of criteria, including customer service, value for money and boarding experience.
Budapest-based Wizz Air received a customer score of 48 per cent, a total that Which? describes as ‘dire’.
Which? reveals: ‘Travellers gave it merely one star out of five for boarding experience, as well as for cabin environment and seat comfort – unsurprising given the airline has some of the least generous legroom of the airlines [we have] surveyed. The airline’s seat pitch, the distance between two rows in standard economy, is a full two inches smaller than even its budget rival Ryanair.’
Wizz Air achieved no higher than two stars in any of the remaining categories, including value for money and customer service.
Plane speaking: Above are the full results of Which?’s short-haul airline survey for 2023
Which? says: ‘One unhappy customer reported their flight was “an unpleasant experience” and there were repeated complaints about delays. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data revealed the airline was among the worst offenders for punctuality last year, with just 56 per cent of flights arriving on time. Of the short-haul airlines included in the survey, only Tui fared worse for punctuality, with less than half (45 per cent) of its flights on time.’
Which? notes that Wizz Air has expanded rapidly, but that ‘its growth has not come without disruption and uncertainty for passengers, with routes frequently paused or shelved altogether’.
‘Just last April,’ Which? says, ‘it launched a number of new routes from Cardiff Airport, before announcing that most of these would be pulled from the market over the winter period – despite many customers having already booked. The CAA has also previously raised concerns about high volumes of complaints about the airline via the Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme and the courts.’
Ryanair (52 per cent), Eurowings (53 per cent), British Airways (56 per cent) and Lufthansa (57 per cent) finished just ahead of Wizz Air.
Which? reveals that Ryanair ‘received a clutch of one and two-star scores, including just one star for boarding experience, seat comfort, food and drink and cabin environment, with one respondent summing up their experience as “just awful”‘.
There is some good news for the Irish airline, though.
Which? continues: ‘Customers reported more favourably on both customer service and the value for money offered, awarding three stars in each of these categories, with passengers praising the “good, competitive pricing”.’
The consumer rights advocate adds that ‘the airline was also notably more reliable than the overall survey average, with just 0.5 per cent of its flights cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice – something it had in common with some of the highest-rated airlines’.
Budget airline Wizz Air has been named the worst short-haul airline by Which?
Jet2.com earns its top-of-the-podium spot thanks to a customer score of 80 per cent
Ryanair didn’t perform so well on punctuality, though, with just 65 per cent of flights arriving on time.
Flag carrier British Airways also comes under fire in the survey.
Which? says: ‘British Airways, once considered among the country’s premium airlines, was widely panned by survey respondents, with one traveller remarking that they felt their experience was “a race to the bottom, providing as little as possible and making cattle class sound like something better”. The airline scored only two stars for boarding, seat comfort and value for money, and no more than three stars in any other category. In total, 2.3 per cent of its flights were cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice, making it among the least reliable airlines surveyed.’
The ‘worst offender’ for last-minute cancellations was Eurowings, according to the survey, with the airline cancelling 3.4 per cent of its flights within 24 hours of departure, followed by Flybe (3.1 per cent), now in administration, and Guernsey-based Aurigny Air Service, which despite rating highly on punctuality, suffered a number of cancellations last year, in part due to bad weather on its remote Alderney route (three per cent).
Jet2.com, meanwhile, earns its top-of-the-podium spot thanks to a customer score of 80 per cent and an impressive haul of stars across the various categories.
Travellers awarded it an ‘impressive’ five stars for customer service, with multiple customers praising the helpful and friendly staff, Which says?, adding: ‘One remarked that the airline “excelled in all areas of customer support”, while another claimed it is “the best airline by a country mile”.’
The airline, reveals the consumer group, once again achieves Which? Recommended Provider status.
Turkish airlines places second in the Which? survey, but is denied a Which? Recommended Provider badge
Norwegian Airlines is the only other carrier to achieve the coveted Which? Recommended Provider badge in short-haul, with Which? explaining that ‘high-scoring Turkish Airlines and Finnair were rejected for having terms and conditions that allow them to cancel passengers’ return journeys if they miss their outbound flight through no fault of their own’.
Norwegian achieved a customer score of 74 per cent, and performed ‘well above average on both cancellations and delays’, with an ‘impressive’ 80 per cent of its flights on time last year, and just 0.6 per cent cancelled at short notice.
The poorly performing airlines defend themselves
Wizz Air said: ‘At Wizz Air, we do everything possible to ensure that passengers reach their destination on time and with minimal delay. We invest heavily into time performance, which is key to our ultra-efficient business model. A number of issues affecting the global aviation industry contributed to a worse time performance in 2022. These issues resulted from a widespread shortage in staff, in particular within air traffic control, ground operations and baggage handling, security and across airports. We are committed to constantly reviewing processes to mitigate these issues and are seeing an overall improvement in the on-time performance of our routes.
‘Wizz Air operates a fleet of brand new, state-of-the-art Airbus aircraft, with an average age of 4.6 years, which offer passengers comfort, space, and modern interiors. The A321neo features the widest single-aisle cabin configuration with 239 18-inch-wide seats. Every aircraft is cleaned after each flight and deep cleaned every night. The onboard menu is reviewed and updated on a bi-monthly basis and, following customer feedback, a local products range was recently introduced on all Wizz Air UK flights. We welcome all customer feedback, so that we can continuously refine our processes to further enhance customer experience.’
Which? reveals that Ryanair, which comes second from bottom, ‘received a clutch of one and two-star scores, including just one star for boarding experience, seat comfort, food and drink and cabin environment, with one respondent summing up their experience as “just awful”‘
A British Airways spokesperson said: ‘We don’t feel this small survey, conducted during one of the most challenging periods in global aviation, accurately represents the views of the tens of millions of customers who’ve chosen to fly with us over the same period. While we don’t claim to get everything right every time, we continue to be recognised for the service we offer, recently winning Best Airline 2022 at the News UK Travel Awards and nine Business Traveller Awards over the past two years.
‘Our customers tell us they appreciate being able to choose from a range of cabins, flying to and from central airports at convenient times of the day, plus our investment in new aircraft, new seating, Wi-Fi, new menus, the complimentary snacks and water we offer in our short-haul economy cabin, and the most generous hand baggage allowance of any UK airline.’
A Tui spokesperson said: ‘This Which? survey once again only speaks to less than one per cent of our customers, and therefore cannot be used as an accurate reflection.’
Ryanair and Eurowings did not reply to a request for comment.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘Travellers have had a torrid time in recent years, with last-minute delays and cancellations an unacceptably common occurrence. While airlines like Jet2.com have distinguished themselves by offering flyers excellent customer care and a reliable service, too many of their competitors continually fail to measure up.
‘If alternative carriers are available for your route, avoid Wizz Air, as its poor record on customer care means you’re likely to be left high and dry in the event your flight is delayed or cancelled.’
Last year MailOnline Travel reported that a British holidaymaker vowed never to use Wizz Air again after the airline cancelled her flight from Portugal to London with just eight hours’ notice – and was unable to help with rebooking an alternative flight or finding hotel accommodation.