Ongoing strikes and the threat of further action have seen British Airways cede further reputational ground to rival Virgin Atlantic in the eyes of the public, according to new research.
When asked which airline they would prefer to fly with, 49 per cent of the 3,000 respondents to PRWeek/OnePoll's latest survey chose Virgin Atlantic.
BA was still named airline of choice by 18 per cent of respondents, while 12 per cent picked easyJet. But when asked what characteristics they would associate with BA, 42 per cent cited industrial disputes and 55 per cent said the airline was 'expensive'. Just nine per cent associated it with value for money - which is significant, as 56 per cent of respondents said price was the most important factor when choosing an airline.
While 31 per cent said threat of strike action made them less likely to book a flight with BA during the strike period, 40 per cent said it made them less likely to book a flight with BA in the long term.
The ongoing industrial disputes have had a negative effect on the reputations of BA chief executive Willie Walsh, the cabin crew at BA and trade union Unite. In total 70 per cent said none of those had enhanced their reputation during the spat.
Half of respondents said the threat of strike action had made their opinion of BA more negative. 'Such steep levels of negativity aren't created overnight,' says Paul Charles, COO of Lewis PR and former Virgin Atlantic comms director. 'BA has a mountain to climb if is to win back public sympathy. Its tone needs to be more humble, it needs to rebuild staff relations, and it needs to invest more in customer service.'
Survey of 3,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll.
HOW I SEE IT - Kevin Murray, Chairman, Bell Pottinger Group and former BA comms director
The problem facing British Airways is that nobody wins when airline employees go on strike - except other airlines. The most striking statistic is that almost 50 per cent of those interviewed would now prefer to fly Virgin Atlantic, with BA trailing in second place at 18 per cent.
The threatened strike at Christmas, and now the ongoing strike action, are taking their toll on passenger patience. Damage has already been done to a once great brand - 50 per cent of people interviewed say their opinion of BA is now more negative.
Reputations are built by a combination of what you do, what you say about yourself, and what others say about you.
How everyone in the airline behaves towards passengers is most important.
If BA is to regain some ground on Virgin, sorting out internal relationships and refocusing all staff on friendly customer service has to be the priority.
- Do you trust British Airways' flights to be on time?
Don't know: 35%
- Do stories about BA's money problems make you more or less likely to fly with them?
Less likely: 48%
More likely: 6%
No change: 46%
40% say the threat of strikes means that they are less likely to book a BA flight in the long term
56% say price is the most important factor when choosing an airline
70% say neither Unite, BA cabin crew nor Willie Walsh have enhanced their reputations during the spat
55% say being expensive is the main characteristic they associate with BA.