Virgin and Love Holidays join Ryanair as the worst performing big firms in MSE’s latest travel survey

Travel abroad from the UK has partially opened up again, after being essentially banned for over 100 days. During that time millions of people have been owed refunds for holidays they couldn't go on. Today MoneySavingExpert.com reveals the results of its latest survey, showing a stark divide in the way travel firms treat customers.

The survey ran between 30 June and 6 July and had a huge 77,101 responses (1), with the aim of finding out both how people felt about their ‘refund experience’ and whether they actually got one.

Three big names did particularly poorly. Ryanair continues to live up to its customer service reputation, scoring the worst of the major brands with a net score of -89%. It’s now joined by Virgin (-88%) and Love Holidays (-81%).

Unsurprisingly these three firms were also among the worst in refunding people at all, with just 4% of Ryanair, Virgin Holidays and Love Holidays customers saying they'd had a refund to date. A majority of Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair customers said they'd been waiting more than two months for a refund since first asking.

Although not a statistical random sample of the UK public, this huge survey does paint a strong picture of what’s going on in travel refunds. Here are the detailed results.

The five key conclusions are:

  1. Love Holidays and Virgin join Ryanair as the worst big firms for refunds.
    Of firms that received at least 100 responses, travel agent Alpharooms came out bottom with a net score of -99%, followed by Jetline (-97%) and Teletext Holidays (-96%). Of the big firms, Ryanair again languished near the bottom of the survey with a net negative score of -89%, and is now joined by Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Holidays (both -88%) and Love Holidays (-81%).

    Travel Counsellors came out on top with an impressive net score of +84%. It was closely followed by Trailfinders (+81%) and both Jet2 brands (+79%, +77%), all of which have shown a big improvement since the last time MSE did this survey back in May.

  2. Virgin brand sees worst decline, while First Choice and Tui see substantial improvement.
    Since MSE’s last travel survey in early May, Virgin Atlantic has plummeted 37 percentage points from -51% to -88%. Big airlines Aer Lingus and Lufthansa also had significant falls in their net score (-30 and -29 percentage points down on last time).

    Yet, on the other hand, there were some positive movers. First Choice improved its score from -60% to +5%, while Trailfinders improved by +49 percentage points, and Riviera by +47 points.

    Firms that have recently prominently changed their stance (often after pressure from the Competitions and Markets Authority) to offer customers refunds saw a jump too, including Tui up from -60% to -21%, Hoseasons up from -68% to -36% and Holiday Extras up from -92% to -65%.

  3. Fewer than 1 in 20 customers of Ryanair, Love Holidays and Virgin Holidays have had a refund for their cancellations so far, compared with 31% on average.

    Unsurprisingly, the survey tended to find that firms which performed well in terms of net score were better at providing customers with refunds.

    The results revealed that less than a third of customers who'd had bookings cancelled by firms had received a full refund. Alpharooms and Air Transat were the worst performers, with not one of their combined 326 survey respondents saying they’d received a refund for a trip each firm had cancelled. Teletext Holidays and Virgin Atlantic both had a refund payout rate of 1% amongst those who'd had trips cancelled. Big firms Ryanair, Love Holidays and Virgin Holidays barely did any better, with only 4% of their customers saying they'd had a full refund.

    At the other end of the spectrum, 87% of Jet2 and Jet2 Holidays customers who'd had bookings cancelled said they'd had a refund from the firm. Trailfinders and Airbnb customers were also likely to get a refund, with 85% and 83% respectively saying they'd been refunded.

  4. Airbnb quick to refund, but Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair keep the majority waiting two months or more.
    MSE’s survey asked respondents how long they had to wait to get a refund. Airbnb came out on top with 87% getting a refund within two weeks. Also quick were Jet2 Holidays (57% within two weeks), BA (56%) and Jet2 (55%). Meanwhile Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair were the worst of the big firms with 69% and 59% of respondents having to wait two months or more (with some still waiting) respectively. This placed them at 9th and 20th worst overall.

    Top and bottom 10 firms for refund waiting times are available on request.

  5. Customers who got refunds or rebooked more than twice as happy as those who got vouchers.
    Around three quarters of those who got refunds said they were happy, as did 70% of those who rebooked for a future time. But only 29% of those who accepted a voucher or credit note responded saying they were happy, with another 42% saying they thought this was a ‘reasonable’ solution. And despite getting their money back, 50% of those who’ve had to fight tooth and nail to get a refund via their card firm or travel insurer responded saying they were unhappy or very unhappy.

Data from customer satisfaction responses is available on request.

 

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "This refund farce has now gone on too long. The pandemic has been a torrid time for millions, who have faced huge financial shocks. Having thousands of pounds tied up on what was once a dream, has turned into a nightmare. It’s left people in distress and some will have seen their mental health impacted.

"It is time for regulators and politicians to take action. Even now, after months, less than a third of people in our mammoth survey have received the full (usually) legally required refunds, and it simply isn’t good enough. We will be passing a dossier on this to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Civil Aviation Authority and Department for Transport.

"The CMA’s already called for full cancellation refunds. It first focused on childcare, weddings, events and UK holiday accommodation sectors. And it’s worked, with firms U-turning on refunds. Now it must turn its attention to these travel firms – pressure needs to be put on Virgin, Love Holidays and others – as people have run out of options.

"Of course, we understand the impact of the pandemic on the travel industry sector is devastating. It’s why I’ve long called for forbearance both ways – if people can help by taking vouchers or rebooking then they should.

"Yet how individual firms have treated their customers during this time will long be remembered.  And the fact so many firms are flouting the law and treating customers poorly means those that have bent over backwards in a difficult time need applause.

"Bravo then to Jet2, Trailfinders, Hays Travel, Airbnb, Travel Counsellors, and all the small firms that have helped that weren’t big enough to make our survey. I’d urge your customers to remember this, and reward you with their future custom."

-ends-

Notes to editors

(1)    Respondents could do the survey more than once if they were dealing with different firms.

(2)    Net score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of respondents who rated their experience with the firm as 'Poor' from the percentage who rated their experience as 'Great'. The number who rated their experience as 'OK' is not factored in.

MSE allowed users to write in firms that weren't included in the initial list of options and have put them in the table if more than 100 responses for that particular firm were received. The 100 response threshold is why most of the firms included are national brands, rather than smaller, independent companies. Asterisks are next to the names of firms which weren't included in the initial lists.
The ten biggest firms (in terms of number of responses received about them) are listed in bold.

Travel firms ranked from best to worst

Firm Number of responses Net score Change from last survey
1. Travel Counsellors 745 +84 -7%
2. Trailfinders 974 +81 +49%
3. Jet2 Holidays 2,283 +79 +25%
4. Jet2 3,269 +77 +30%
5. Airbnb 1,102 +69 +13%
6. Hays Travel 1,629 +64 -6%
7. British Airways Holidays 342 +63 +18%
8. Haven 245 +54 +24%
9. Center Parcs 302 +53 +11%
10. Saga 230 +52 +26%
11. Disney Holidays 246 +51 +14%
12. Co-operative Travel 188 +34 New result
13. Easyjet Holidays 311 +31 +21%
14. Norwegian Air 309 +23 New result
15. HomeAway 276 +17 +9%
16. British Airways 3,248 +11 +3%
17. American Airlines 137 +9 +8%
18. Eurocamp 105 +7 New result
19. First Choice 292 +5 +65%
20. Booking.com 1,221 +4 -14%
21. Hotels.com 482 +3 -18%
22. Riviera 266 +2 +47%
23. Ebookers 128 +1 +12%
24. Travelbag 126 -3 New result
25. Qatar Airways 127 -6 +15%
26. Travel Republic 575 -12 +15%
27. Villa Plus 234 -17 New result
28. Tui 5,901 -21 +39%
29. Cottages.com 242 -22 +32%
30. P&O Ferries 120 -24 New result
31. Eurostar 268 -24 +22%
32. Expedia 1,059 -29 -1%
33. P&O Cruises 1,052 -31 -1%
34. Brittany Ferries 441 -32 New result
35. Princess Cruises* 100 -33 New result
36. Onthebeach 1,042 -34 -16%
37. Wizz Air 215 -34 +14%
38. Netflights 225 -36 New result
39. Hoseasons 313 -36 +32%
40. Easyjet 6,407 -39 -11%
41. Emirates 743 -48 No change
42. Vueling 196 -52 +9%
43. Etihad 112 -54 New result
44. Turkish Airlines 113 -60 New result
45. Holiday Extras 634 -65 +27%
46. Shearings 377 -65 New result
47. Aer Lingus 551 -68 -30%
48. Air France 198 -69 +7%
49. Loganair 183 -73 New result
50. Iglu* 191 -73 New result
51. Travel Trolley 270 -74 +21%
52. Secret Escapes 386 -77 -1%
53. Lastminute.com 877 -77 +10%
54. Sykes Cottages 683 -77 +2%
55. Lufthansa 310 -78 -29%
56. STA Travel 239 -78 -1%
57. KLM 575 -79 +3%
58. Loveholidays 2,806 -81 -11%
59. Budget Air 300 -82 New result
60. Barrhead* 195 -87 New result
61. Fleetway 297 -87 New result
62. Virgin Atlantic 2,675 -88 -37%
63. Virgin Holidays 2,518 -88 -15%
64. Air Transat* 173 -88 New result
65. Ryanair 8,897 -89 -7%
66. TravelUp 703 -89 +6%
67. Opodo 726 -92 -6%
68. Teletext Holidays 507 -96 -2%
69. Jetline* 198 -97 New result
70. Alpharooms* 188 -99 New result

Net score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of respondents who rated their experience as 'poor' from the percentage who rated their experience as 'great'. The number who rated their experience as 'OK' is not factored in.

We allowed users to include firms that weren't in our initial list of options and have put them in the table if we received more than 100 responses for that particular firm. The 100 response threshold is why most of the firms included are national brands, rather than smaller, independent companies. Asterisks denote firms that weren't included in our initial lists.

Firms that had over 1,000 responses are in bold.