The consumer perception of British Airways has slumped in the face of negative headlines over withdrawing free in-flight food and drinks on short haul flights as well as repeated strikes and an IT meltdown.
Views of the brand’s value and quality have dropped by 11.5 and 13.4 points respectively in the past year, a new YouGov analysis shows.
By contrast, low-cost competitor Ryanair improved in both areas over the last year — although the full impact of its ongoing pilot problems has yet to be fully measured – while easyJet had only minor declines of 0.2 points in both measures.
Perceptions of BA’s quality and value have also fallen at a faster rate than long-haul rivals Emirates and Virgin Atlantic, and have dropped further than United Airlines, despite its various public relations mishaps in the past year.
When it comes to its own customers, BA has suffered an even bigger hit, according to YouGov.
Among those who have flown with the airline in the past year, perceptions of value and quality have dropped notably.
Looking at value for money, the decline started earliest among those who fly with BA. The drop among BA customers’ perception in this area started in autumn 2016, shortly after the introduction of inflight food and drink charges for short-haul flights.
But the general public’s view began to change notably in May 2017, at the time of the brand’s much-publicised IT problems which grounded thousands of passengers.
The findings emerged as the airline’s chairman and chief executive Alex Cruz revealed a £4.5 billion investment in new aircraft and other enhancements.
YouGov head of data products Amelia Brophy said: “Despite the fall in perception among several key groups, it should be remembered that British Airways is still the highest rated airline in the UK according to many metrics, and, despite falls in views of the carrier’s quality and value for money, the vast majority (87%) who flew with BA in the last 12 months were satisfied with their experience.
“While satisfaction does not necessarily translate into customer advocacy or loyalty, and although it may not be possible to re-introduce free ‘extras’ in the current cost-cutting climate, one way the brand could possibly recover lost ground is by focusing on its customer service.
“Our brand crisis data repeatedly shows that brands which react quickly and efficiently to a crisis are most likely to limit the damage a scandal creates, and at the time of the IT failures it was reported that, in many cases, travellers’ grievances were compounded by BA’s failure to quickly rectify the situation.
“As its previous recovery since 2010 – in the aftermath of disruptions caused by industrial action and the Icelandic ash cloud – shows, British Airways has a resilience in keeping with the strong reputation the brand still holds.
“However in an increasingly competitive environment, customers need good reasons to stick with BA and the data indicate that there are areas where improvements could be made.”
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