Is British Airways losing altitude with the public?

Amelia BrophyHead of Data Products, UK
November 07, 2017, 9:36 AM GMT+0

In the current travails of the airline industry, British Airways is better off than many of its competitors. In its half yearly report in June 2017 the carrier reported increased profits and it has the best overall brand health of any airline among UK consumers.

However, it has recently faced its own challenges. In the past year-or-so the airline has experienced negative headlines about the withdrawal of complimentary inflight food and drinks on short haul flights as well as repeated strikes and an IT meltdown. This has been compounded by increasing competition from budget airlines, as well as outside pressures such as fuel prices.

Additionally, its dual position as both a long and short haul carrier also puts BA in an interesting and challenging position. Our latest report explores consumer perception of British Airways and how it has changed over the past few years among different consumer groups compared to its rivals. Here are some of the findings.

BA’s perception among all flyers

Among all flyers, perception of BA has declined notably, with views of the brand’s value and quality dropping by -11.5 and -13.4 points respectively in the past year.

By comparison, 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 declined at a faster rate than long-haul rivals Emirates and Virgin Atlantic, and has fallen further than United, despite its various public relations missteps in the past year.

BA’s perception among its own customers

When it comes to its own customers, BA has suffered an even bigger hit. 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 British Airways. 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.

BA is a brand with a lot to offer

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.

To download the report for free click here

Image Getty

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