Tuesday 20 August 2013 8:25 pm

Brand Index: British Airways flying high as it extends lead over Virgin

LAST summer I looked at perception of airlines and noted that British Airways, after years of being hit by a series of crises, had managed a steady period of improvement in its consumer perception scores, once again managing to overtake Virgin as Britain’s favourite airline.

A year on, and in the heat of the holiday season, I’ve dived back into the data to see how BA’s story has developed over the last 12 months.

The upward momentum has continued for BA and it has now developed a nine-point lead over Virgin on the Index score (a composite of six key perception measures). Looking at the long term picture it is interesting to see that Virgin has maintained an impressive level of consistency – particularly for an airline – always scoring in the plus 20s and low plus 30s, and never dropping out of the top two. BA, by contrast, has fluctuated dramatically from a low of zero in June 2010 (when it had fallen well behind rivals such as Emirates and Cathay Pacific) to a high of plus 39 this week.

Earlier this year we added new indicators to BrandIndex to look at brand health more comprehensively. Looking at these new measures gives us a clue as to why BA is able to rebound so strongly and consistently.

Its flight path footprint means that compared to its rivals it has a lot of customers (13 per cent of our sample in the past 12 months, compared to four per cent for Virgin) and leads the way among airlines for consideration (47 per cent) and most likely next purchase (19 per cent).

It also currently has high levels of satisfaction. This frequency of usage means that while perceptions of Virgin are largely driven by reputation earned over time, BA’s are more dependent on the recent quality of its product – making it more susceptible to crises but also means it is positioned well to recover from them.

Stephan Shakespeare is the chief executive of YouGov