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Which? checks customer support responses at 8 airways

  •  EasyJet, BA, Vueling, Wizz Air, Ryanair, KLM, Tui and Jet2 were put to the test
  • A Ryanair spokesperson said: ‘We don’t respond to Which? fake news stories’ 
  • Which airline do YOU think is the worst for customer service? Vote in our poll… 
  • READ MORE: Britain’s best B&Bs for 2024 revealed by the AA 

A Which? mystery shopper investigation has exposed multiple airline ‘customer service failings’ after it put eight carriers to the test.

The consumer champion wanted to find out ‘the true state’ of the customer service cultures at easyJet, BA, Vueling, Wizz Air, Ryanair, KLM, Tui and Jet2.

The result? ‘Malfunctioning bots and doom loops of unhelpful messages [and] rip-off premium-rate phone lines,’ said Which?.

Which? explained that its researchers contacted the airlines via various channels including phone calls, online chats, emails (or, alternatively, an online query form or WhatsApp if no email contact available) and X (formerly Twitter).

Researchers made ‘simple requests’, Which? explained, ‘such as amending a spelling mistake on the booking or asking for advice on whether their passport is valid for travel to the EU’.

In a customer service study, Which? revealed that the contact number ‘most immediately obvious’ on Wizz Air’s website and when searching through Google ‘charges a staggering £1.45 a minute’

In a customer service study, Which? revealed that the contact number ‘most immediately obvious’ on Wizz Air’s website and when searching through Google ‘charges a staggering £1.45 a minute’

In each case, the airline was assessed for accuracy, speed and how helpful the interactions were.

Which? revealed: ‘When it comes to using online chat services, researchers found the coordination between bots and live agents to be hit and miss.’

Wizz Air’s chatbot promised to connect a researcher to a live agent to discuss passport expiration rules, but ‘agents were too busy’.

Which? said: ‘The bot advised [the] researcher to wait a minute before reattempting a live chat connection and did this 12 times in 15 minutes before the researcher conceded defeat.

‘A second attempt, this time to amend a misspelt name, was better, providing clear instructions on what to do. However, the bot could not make the amendment on the passenger’s behalf, as a real customer service agent might have been able to.’

EasyJet was more successful at showing how chatbot and live agents can work well together, Which? revealed, explaining: ‘When a researcher asked to amend a spelling mistake on the booking, the bot explained how it could be done through the website, but also offered to connect the researcher to a live agent to do it on their behalf.’

EasyJet was successful at showing how chatbot and live agents can work well together, Which? revealed

EasyJet was successful at showing how chatbot and live agents can work well together, Which? revealed

For non-urgent queries, email contact also ‘proved difficult in many cases’.

Which? explained: ‘Jet2 and Ryanair, for instance, did not offer email as an option, but those that did were not necessarily helpful. British Airways, Vueling and Wizz Air either did not reply, or failed to provide useful information when they did. In contrast, easyJet replied every time – generally helpfully – and Tui’s online query form and KLM’s alternative, WhatsApp, were both effective.’

 Which?’s caller was told that the phone number they were ringing from didn’t match the booking reference and Ryanair’s system cut them off

How about phone contact? The researchers discovered that finding a phone number and then accessing help was ‘not always straightforward’, and a telephone contact for existing bookings was ‘only immediately obvious to the researchers on Tui and Vueling’s sites’.

The first call to Vueling failed as the inquiry was misheard, offering directory options to choose from that did not suit the researcher’s inquiry, who before being able to decide which to go for, was disconnected.

In all, the study reveals, Vueling hung up on Which? on three out of six attempts.

Ryanair’s automated system also hung up on researchers.

Which? said: ‘On the first occasion, Which?’s caller was told that the phone number they were ringing from didn’t match the booking reference and [the system] cut them off. A second call was disconnected as the flight was not within 30 days. Researchers finally got through when trying the day before the flight.’

KLM, meanwhile, ‘was unable to help when asked about gluten-free menus’.

In another instance, Which? noted, rather than offering a simple resolution to correct a spelling mistake, the airline required a picture of the passport to be emailed across – but when the researcher phoned back and got a different agent they were able to amend it there and then.

The study also underscored how getting help can be expensive.

Which? revealed that the number ‘most immediately obvious’ on Wizz Air’s own website and when searching through Google ‘charges a staggering £1.45 a minute’.

The airline has a local-rate number ‘buried on its site’ – but one researcher gave up trying to find it ‘after 30 clicks’.

A Ryanair spokesperson said: 'We don’t respond to Which? fake news stories or its equally fake and routinely inaccurate “surveys"'

A Ryanair spokesperson said: ‘We don’t respond to Which? fake news stories or its equally fake and routinely inaccurate “surveys”‘

Another eventually did find it, under the ‘special assistance’ section.

Contacting firms through X (formerly Twitter) was ‘generally more successful’ – researchers revealed that they had ‘positive interactions with Vueling, BA and Jet2’.

However, Which? points out that the danger of being scammed on social media makes this ‘the most risky method of contact’. Researchers reported being spammed ‘by multiple accounts masquerading as the airlines, asking for personal information’.

In conclusion, Which? said: ‘In all, researchers experienced a range of inconsistent and at times deeply disappointing customer service interactions – with the likes of Wizz Air, Ryanair, KLM and Vueling falling short of expectations.

Which? researchers found that Vueling's customer service operation had ups and downs

Which? researchers found that Vueling’s customer service operation had ups and downs

‘It is imperative that airlines take action to make it easier for their customers to get timely and effective solutions to their problems. This current lack of effective customer service and contact methods by some airlines can have serious consequences when customers are trying to get advice, refunds or help with rerouting when flights are delayed or cancelled.’

Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, said: ‘It’s unacceptable that such haphazard customer service has become the norm in the travel industry, and it is essential that airlines raise their standards and make it easier for passengers to get timely and effective solutions when they encounter a problem.

‘The government must prioritise giving the Civil Aviation Authority stronger powers, including direct fining powers, so it can properly hold airlines to account when they fail to comply with consumer protection laws.’

A Wizz Air spokesperson said: ‘We do not accept these findings. It is another brazen attempt from Which? to pull the wool over the public’s eyes with misleading “research”.

‘Once again, Which? has not been transparent with its methodology, only asking a handful of people to give their opinion and attempting to disguise it as representative. 

‘The fact of the matter is you cannot contact a customer service team only a few times and rank the performance of an airline with millions of customers on this alone. It is simply not accurate or fair. As an organisation that is supposed to be on the side of the consumer, Which? should be providing customers with accurate advice they can trust, rather than trying to grab headlines. Our customer service teams deal with thousands of customers a day providing the support and assistance they require.’

But is Wizz Air in denial? This statement isn’t just at odds with the Which? study, but with ratings on huge review sites. Wizz Air scores just 1.3 out of five for its customer service on Trustpilot from 13,000 reviews, and on Tripadvisor it scores just 2.5 out of five on average for customer service from 26,800 reviews.

A Vueling spokesperson said: ‘Occasional challenges are not indicative of our overall service quality. We continuously evaluate our procedures to guarantee the best customer service and take the areas of improvement pointed out by the survey very seriously.’

A Ryanair spokesperson said: ‘We don’t respond to Which? fake news stories or its equally fake and routinely inaccurate “surveys”.’