New research in the UK shows the online reputations of so-called low-fare airlines have nose-dived in recent months, as disquiet grows among customers about misleading charges.
Research into the best online brands reveals Virgin Atlantic Airways as the best carrier, with budget companies such as Ryanair performing appallingly.
The latest Kaizo Advocacy Index ― a twice yearly assessment of online reputations ― shows Virgin Atlantic as the sole airline to emerge with a positive score (67 per cent), the fourth consecutive time the carrier has claimed the top spot. Budget airlines fared badly, with easyJet dropping 32 percentage points to a surprising -23 per cent and Ryanair falling 46 points to a miserable -62 per cent.
The index looks at 20 leading brands across four industry sectors. It found that disgruntled passengers are becoming increasingly vocal with their criticism over budget carriers’ hidden charges and poor complaints handling.
“When things go wrong, the internet provides an easy platform for people to vent their frustrations. Brands need to monitor closely and react quickly to negative comments online,” according to Kaizo.
Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are providing an ever-growing platform for consumers to register dissatisfaction, allowing firms who collate fares from a number of different sources to keep tabs on public reaction to the specifics of a particular service.
One of the major bugbears for the customer is the tendency for companies to avoid direct contact with their market. “Brands that openly engage with customers online will find themselves promoted more often than those that hide behind streams of corporate news,” says Kaizo.
“The sheer volume of information also means brands need to work hard to be heard online. Identifying what consumers are saying and where they are saying it is an important first step to working out where to focus proactive online communication.”
‘These airlines are no longer ‘low cost’. They are simply ‘no frills’,” says DialAFlight, one of the UK’s 10 top travel companies. “We are now seeing a big demand from people who have been booking flights directly online for the last couple of years. They’ve suddenly realised that once you have added all the online check-in charges, baggage charges, seating charges and so on, then scheduled flights are often cheaper and you get treated like a human being.”
But despite the findings, the recession-fuelled decline in bookings shows signs of slowing, according to DialAFlight. The beginning of the year showed sales were down 16 per cent from last year, while the last 6 months shows only an 8 per cent decrease.
DialAFlight offers cheap flights, hotels, car hire, city breaks and business travel. The company has available more than six million cheap flights to a wide range of destinations around the world including New York, Australia and Dubai.
For more information visit www.dialaflight.com.