Reputation Survey: Low-cost airlines hide the real deal

In the week that Ryanair began trialling an advanced seat booking service, figures show an overwhelming majority of the public believe that budget airlines mislead consumers over price.

Low-cost airlines advertise misleading prices, according to the 2,000 respondents of PRWeek/OnePoll's survey. Sixty-seven per cent said that low-cost airlines advertise misleading prices, and a further 76 per cent said airlines charged too much for credit or debit card payments.

Seventy-five per cent said low-cost airlines should not be allowed to advertise prices that do not include basic services such as online check-in fees.

The news came as Ryanair began a trial of a new service that allows consumers to pay extra to book seats in advance. However, 56 per cent of respondents to the survey said they would not use the service.

Respondents were split over whether low-cost airlines offered better value for money than other airlines, with 52 per cent saying they did.

EasyJet was named as the airline with the cheapest flights by 32 per cent and Ryanair by 28 per cent. But when asked which airline provided the best value for money, 36 per cent said easyJet and only 14 per cent opted for Ryanair.

EasyJet was the low-cost airline most respondents wanted to fly with (31 per cent).

Price and convenience were the most important factors for respondents when choosing which airline to use. Thirty-two per cent said they chose the airline that offered the cheapest fare, 25 per cent chose the airline that flew from the closest airport to their home, while 16 per cent went for the airline that offered direct flights.

Survey of 2,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll

How I see it

Rachel O'Reilly, Director, Rachel O'Reilly Communications

Ryanair has to be one of the most moaned-about airlines around. At just four per cent, it scored lowest in terms of overall reputation and was rated poorly throughout this survey.

Yet, according to the latest Sunday Times Rich List, the airline's boss Michael O'Leary is still one of Ireland's wealthiest individuals, worth £338m, so Ryanair must be doing something right. Because it flies from 16 UK airports and chooses routes not always served by other airlines, people may not like it but they lump it.

EasyJet does well in this survey, scoring 35 per cent in the value-for-money category, well ahead of its competitors.

Yet, for overall desirability, Virgin Atlantic is the winner. Its brand advertising is, in my view, the best in the industry. It maintains its edge over BA in-flight as well, with a few special touches - the ice-cream at the movies and the red socks. These should not matter but somehow they do just make flying a little bit cooler.

HIGH BOOKING FEES

76% of respondents said airlines charged too much for credit or debit card payments

PRICE CONFUSION

67% said low-cost airlines' pricing was misleading

ADVANCE RESERVATION

56% said they would not use Ryanair's new offering allowing for fee-paid reservation of certain seats in advance

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING AIRLINES ...
Offers the best value for money?
Air Asia X - 3
Aer Lingus - 3.5
BMI Baby - 11
EasyJet - 35.5
Flybe - 6
Ryanair - 14
Don't know - 27
WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING AIRLINES ...
Offers the cheapest flights?
Air Asia X - 2
Aer Lingus - 2.5
BMI Baby - 7.5
EasyJet - 32
Flybe - 4
Ryanair - 28
Don't know - 24
WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING AIRLINES ...
Has the best overall reputation?
Air Asia X - 4.5
Aer Lingus - 11
BMI Baby - 20
EasyJet - 21
Flybe - 7
Ryanair - 4
Don't know - 32.5
WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING AIRLINES ...
Offers the best overall customer service?
Air Asia X - 3.5
Aer Lingus - 8
BMI Baby - 13.5
EasyJet - 16
Flybe - 7.5
Ryanair - 5
Don't know - 46.5

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