Some of Britain’s biggest and best-established travel firms are being outstripped by their younger, leaner competitors, a new survey of more than 4,000 holidaymakers has established.
Trailfinders has topped Which? annual package holiday provider rankings, praised for its value, quality of accommodation and consistency, while Jet2holidays came a close second.
Thomas Cook, Tui and First Choice, though, were left languishing at the foot of the rankings. Cook received a customer satisfaction score of 69% for its offering, Tui 74% and First Choice 75%.
By comparison, Trailfinders achieved a score of 91% – the only company to receive five-star ratings for any of Which?’s ranking criteria – and Jet2holidays a score of 87%.
Trailfinders received top marks for customer service and holiday organisation, while Jet2holidays, which overtook Cook last year to become Britain’s second-largest holiday operator after Tui, was praised for its customer service and free 22kg luggage allowance.
Moreover, the Which? research found the average cost per day of a Jet2holidays short-haul holiday was broadly comparable with Cook and Tui while offering a “considerably better” experience.
“While the gap between the best and worst package travel providers may not be huge, the survey sends a clear message the big players must up their game if they are to compete with rivals doing a better job of giving customers what they want,” said Which?.
The survey asked respondents to rate their holiday operators based on criteria such as customer service, quality of accommodation, value for money and whether their trips lived up to claims made by operators online, in brochures and other promotional materials.
Cook received three-star ratings for accommodation, customer service and value for money, with one in four Cook customers reporting to Which? they had encountered a problem on holiday, the most common relating to reps, delays and poor customer service.
Tui and Tui-owned First Choice, meanwhile, received three and four-star ratings across the board and a “satisfactory” overall score, but this still placed both operators – along with Cook – behind the other eight providers in the rankings: British Airways Holidays, easyJet Holidays, Expedia, Jet2holidays, Riviera Travel, Saga, Trailfinders and Virgin Holidays.
The main complaints when it came to Tui related to poor customer service, issues with reps and disappointing accommodation.
Which? Travel’s Naomi Leach said: “Whether it’s disappointing accommodation, incompetent reps or a holiday that doesn’t live up to the glossy brochure, choosing the wrong package holiday company could leave you wishing you’d stayed at home.
“Our hard-earned holidays are too precious to be ruined by second-rate accommodation or shoddy customer service. If your package is not as described, don’t be afraid to make a complaint.”
A Thomas Cook person said: “Many millions of loyal customers come back to Thomas Cook year after year. It seems they are not represented by the sample of fewer than 300 of our customers which was used for this Which? report.
“We take the views of our customers very seriously. Our own customer satisfaction scores – which incorporate the feedback of tens of thousands of customers – are significantly higher than those reported by Which? and this year, satisfaction is up in all areas, including our rep service and quality of hotels.
“This weekend is set to be the busiest for travel as the schools break up and our 600-strong team of reps in destinations across the world are ready to make sure all our customers have an incredible holiday.”
A Tui spokesperson said: "We are disappointed in the results as our customers are at the heart of everything we do.
"We offer great flexibility, a wide choice of destinations and holiday types and will continue to do all we can to ensure our customers have the very best experiences when they are on holiday with us.
"We recognise the importance of great customer service and must do even more in the future."