Virgin tops airline customer satisfaction poll while BA scores below average

LONDON - Virgin Atlantic has been named the UK airline with the best customer satisfaction rating, with British Airways scoring below the national average.

UK airlines have been graded for the first time by the National Customer Satisfaction Index, which ascribes scores of 0-100.

The good news for Virgin Atlantic followed its soaring pre-tax profits announcement last week, which saw them leap from £34.8m to £68.4m while BA slumped.

BA reported a record annual operating loss of £401m -- its biggest loss in more than two decades.

As a sector airlines scored 69 for the first quarter of 2009, which is well below the UK average across 16 sectors of 75 but "substantially better" than US airlines.

NCSI-UK said airlines tend to receive customer complaints less frequently than other industries, but "do one of the poorest jobs of any industry at handling the complaints they do receive -- with the exception of Virgin, which seems to have excellent complaint handling".

Virgin scored 75, BA scored 69 and Easyjet scored the lowest with 66. No score was available from NCSI-UK for Ryanair, which yesterday said it was considering asking passengers to load their own luggage into aircraft holds to save money on baggage handlers.

Ryanair also confirmed it would be charging for use of its toilets on board flights.

NCSI-UK is the sister initiative of the prominent American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which was developed by Professor Claes Fornell in conjunction with the University of Michigan.

NCSI-UK customer satisfaction poll