The online reputation of budget airlines has taken a dive over the summer as customers grow increasingly vocal about misleading charges.
The latest Kaizo Advocacy Index, a twice-yearly assessment of brand reputations online, shows Virgin Atlantic as the only airline to emerge with a positive score, while budget airlines EasyJet and Ryanair faired worst.
Virgin Atlantic claimed the highest score for the fourth consecutive time with an Index score of 33%, while EasyJet fell 32 percentage points to -23% and Ryanair dropped 46 points to -62%.
The Index, which looks at 20 leading brands across four industry sectors, suggests airlines are attracting increasing criticism from passengers over additional charges and the poor handling of refunds.
Kaizo managing director Rhodri Harries said: “When things go wrong, the internet provides an easy platform for people to vent their frustrations. Brands need to monitor closely and react quickly to negative comments online.”
Even Virgin Atlantic lost some ground as disgruntled customers resorted to social networks Twitter and Facebook.
However, BMI moved from last place to second among the airlines with a score of -12% – an improvement of 23 percentage points.
Harries said: “Brands that openly engage with customers online will find themselves promoted more often than those that hide behind streams of corporate news.
“The sheer volume of information also means brands need to work hard to be heard online. Identifying what consumers are saying and where they are saying it is an important first step to working out where to focus proactive online communication.”