BA bad, Finnair & United surprise, Virgin Atlantic as consistent as ever

First long haul on United turned out to be a positive experience.

As we end the year with the traditional British “how long can we stretch Christmas holidays for” period – many are managing a full two weeks off with Christmas and New Years Day on Wednesdays.

That gives us time to reflect on the best and worst of the year in aviation.

Short haul services from BA “overpriced and poor service”.

So, Which? Magazine, a source of considerable knowledge on customer opinions asked 40,000 people to rank their favourite airlines.

British Airways short haul, supposedly pumped with millions in catering and training investments with shiny new cabins, well they pretty much matched RyanAir down at the bottom rung of customer service, catering and value for money.

Airlines like small regional carrier Aurigny Air came top with package holiday airline Jet2 highly rated.

On the long haul side BA did little better – loosing to arch-enemy Virgin Atlantic as the preferred long haul airline.

This year I’ve been back and forth across the Atlantic more than ever before. Mostly I choose Virgin Atlantic. However with the demise of Virgin America getting from San Francisco to Washington DC has put me on United more than I’d ever have imagined, and recently on a TransAtlantic flight.

I’ll give it to United, they are way better than they used to be. The 757-200’s into Reagan can be a bit so-so but it’s not the worlds end if you’re in business class.

The United revelation is the new trans-Atlantic fit on the 772’s and Premium Economy. It’s outstandingly good, vastly better than British Airways, and the new Polaris business class, while a bit bland looking is actually a really good product and both offer value for money.

Earlier in the year I discovered Finnair for the first but not the last time.

They are a truly outstanding airline with a customer focused level of attention second to none. Yes the A350 broke down twice and delayed us in London and Helsinki, but we were treated to outstanding service and received our compensation of almost 50% of the fares to Hong Kong in just ten days.

On the way back from Tokyo, the service was just as outstanding and the food in business class is something else.

Having just come back from Lapland with Finnair in short haul A321’s, they’re just as amazing.

Consistently good service and quality product

And who can forget Virgin Atlantic – they have never caused me a moments issue, no matter the class you travel in, no matter how often, no matter when. Nothing is too much trouble.

So awards if I had to give them:

Virgin Atlantic for consistently providing a quality service year round, and going the extra mile.

Finnair, for simply amazing service and no-quibble problem solving with a value for money product.

United Airlines: for surprising me with such dramatic improvements on long haul and actually trying hard to be better.

I have to be honest and say Finnair was a positive surprise – but the biggest was United. I just didn’t expect it to be so good.

The worst was BA, I have to agree. Lufthansa cancelled a flight from Frankfurt and booked us on BA back to London – it’s only short haul and it’s barely 90 minutes but the crew didn’t care about anything, it was simply horrible and compared to Lufthansa a very poor overall experience.

The question then is what does service mean to us these days when it comes to airlines? Does it matter to you? Should it? Is it all about price? Is it also about an experience?