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'Never flying with them again' – have you ever actually followed through with an airline boycott?

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 31/01/2019 Hugh Morris
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Type “never flying with” into the search bar of Twitter and hit Enter. What follows is a veritable who’s who of the world’s airlines; scores of passengers vowing to shuffle off this mortal coil before ever stepping foot again on the likes of… Alaska Air, Flybe, Southwest Air, Delta, Southwest again, American, Delta again, United, Lufthansa, Air China, British Airways, Ryanair, Westjet and so on.

It’s no secret that in the social media age the art of the boycott has become less about historic mass-action and more the empty outlet of a furious and frustrated consumer – less civil rights and the Montgomery Bus company, more baggage fees and Ryanair.

But it’s one thing to ditch Gregg’s over vegan sausage rolls and another to limit your holiday choices and stretch your budget just because a flight was half an hour late.

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It’s hard to quantify how many knee-jerk martyrs return to an airline after announcing a boycott on the internet when they realise that there’s no other way to get to Palma de Mallorca from their local hub, or that the closest competitor sells fares at twice the price, but I would put money on all of them.

Getty © Getty Getty I asked psychologist Emma Kenny about the rise of the snap sanction. “On a marketing level, the impact and damage brands suffer through negative reviews is real,” she said, “and this means that many people will also use such public networks to shame companies into making some kind of apology or remuneration.” 

But if you study the tweets, posts and TripAdvisor reviews, most barely reference a tangible complaint and represent passengers just venting frustration into an internet void. Emma says that many of such threats are passengers “reacting emotionally”: “For some this may be a reality where they genuinely go through with the threat. For others, it’s a momentary venting of a feeling that will ebb over time.”

Getty © Getty Getty

I’ve never said I’d boycott an airline but I have sworn never to eat at Burger King again – after a particularly negative experience with a Chicken Royale – and guess what? I’ve been back, several times. My colleague, digital editor Oliver Smith published an article in this very newspaper announcing he would never fly from Heathrow again. Has he done so since? You bet your bottom dollar.

I have a friend who has a “Ryanair Fund” that he adds a little to every month so that when the time comes to fly Ryanair, he has a little extra saved so that he doesn’t have to. But has he flown Ryanair? Of course he has.

Air travel is such a price sensitive industry – one in which a fall in cost increases demand –that consumer ire can be short-lived when it comes to pricing up the next holiday. Take, for example, Ryanair’s pricing strategy. The Irish carrier could not dispute it has a somewhat Marmite reputation, but its entire business ethos is built on lowering fares as much as is necessary to fill the planes.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll of American travellers from last year found that more than half of respondents were unwilling to pay more to fly with their preferred airline – they just went with the cheapest.

Flying long-haul might be slightly different, where prices are higher and variations in comfort greater, but the advent of low-cost operations, such as Norwegian, has shone a spotlight on cost. The ubiquity of comparison websites – Skyscanner, Kayak et al – is testament to how important air fare is. All this pressure on your one-man stand and we haven’t even touched on destination choice: limit your choice of airlines and you limit your holidays, too.

In this day and age it is all too easy to turn straight to a keyboard – mobile or otherwise – and swear you are prepared to suffer so long as it means that shambolic bunch of cowboys does not receive another penny of your hard-earned money, but maybe it’s better – if indeed there is an actual grievance – to contact the airline direct after you’ve cooled down. Rather than returning to their check-in desk a few weeks later with your tail between your legs.

Gallery: A Pepsi-themed Concorde, a panda plane and a yellow Simpsons jet: The world's most wacky plane liveries revealed [Daily Mail]

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