It has been a trying 12 months for airline passengers but some airlines have been more helpful through the chaos than others.
Consumer body Which? asked 8,000 UK travellers to rate airlines based on a number of criteria like value for money, customer service and boarding experience. They used these experiences to predict what will be the best and worst carriers for 2023.
After a year filled with travel chaos, the results of the survey focused on the airlines that looked after passengers when things went wrong. Almost one in three people said they had a problem with a flight in 2022 - but how each carrier dealt with that problem was what made the difference.
“Travellers have had a torrid time in recent years, with last-minute delays and cancellations an unacceptably common occurrence,” says Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel.
He adds that some airlines, however, have distinguished themselves by offering flyers excellent customer care and reliable service.
“Too many of their competitors continually fail to measure up.”
What is the worst airline for 2023?
The worst airline in the survey was Wizz Air coming out with a “dire” customer service score of 48 per cent.
“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,” says Boland.
It operated just 56 per cent of its flights on time and nearly 2 per cent were cancelled within 24 hours of departure.
Almost half of the respondents reported that when things went wrong there were no staff available during delays. Passengers also said they had a bad experience once they had finally boarded.
Which? says at current levels of service and comfort, its new long-haul flights to the Middle East and Asia are frankly unthinkable.
"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 spokesperson for Wizz Air said.
"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."
They added that Wizz Air welcomes all customer feedback so the airline can refine its processes to further enhance customer experience.
Ryanair ranks low on the Which? list
Coming in after Wizz Air at the bottom for short-haul economy airlines was Ryanair. Which? says it regularly ranks low in the table on these lists.
Though it had three stars for customer service - notably better than Wizz Air - and was more reliable than average, less than half of passengers said they could find a member of Ryanair staff when they faced delays. There were also complaints about the boarding experience, seat comfort and cabin environment.
Ryanair says: “This is just more fake news from yet another fake survey by Which?, who repeatedly make false claims about Ryanair – the UK’s most reliable and low fare airline.”
What are the worst long-haul airlines for 2023?
For long-haul economy airlines, Which? says it's simple: “Fly anyone but British Airways and Lufthansa.”
Lufthansa came out at the bottom of the list for long-haul airlines. It had a two-star rating from passengers for boarding experience, value for money and food and drink offerings.
The airline did however have a four-star rating for cabin cleanliness, cabin environment and customer service. Overall, its score came out at 57 per cent - the lowest of the long-haul airlines.
British Airways was also widely panned by survey respondents. One traveller said their experience felt like “a race to the bottom, providing as little as possible and making cattle class sound like something better.”
The airline scored two stars for boarding, seat comfort and value for money. It had no more than three stars in any other category on the survey.
“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,” a spokesperson for British Airways said.
“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.”
What is the best airline in 2023?
Despite delays and cancellations, the best airline on the list was Jet2. The number of on-time flights was average and it still suffered disruption at airports and with air traffic control.
But, when problems did occur, 72 per cent of respondents said that the airline was available to help. Passengers also said that boarding was well organised and cabins were clean and well maintained.
Jet2 received four stars for value for money, cabin cleanliness and boarding. It received a three-star rating for seat comfort and its food and drink offering. It was also one of the best-performing airlines on last-minute cancellations with just 0.5 per cent of flights cancelled with less than 24 hours notice.
One respondent concluded that Jet2 was “the best airline by a country mile” and it was one of only two airlines given a full five stars for its customer service.