Customers are more satisfied with the service of independent tour operators than they are with the big two, according to a Holiday Which? survey.

The magazine surveyed almost 4,000 people, asking them about tour operators’ service in areas including accommodation, resort, journey, organisation, tour reps and value for money. The operators were then given an overall customer satisfaction score.

Top of the list was Titan Travel, which received a score of 91%. Nine independent tour operators achieved customer satisfaction scores of 80% or higher, while Airtours, Crystal Holidays, First Choice and Thomas Cook – all owned by TUI Travel and Thomas Cook Group – rated less than 65%.

However, Federation of Tour Operators director-general Andy Cooper said: “I am pleased that two of our members, Inghams and Kuoni have made it into the top six, but at the same time it doesn’t take into account the huge numbers that travel with the big operators.”

The Association of Independent Tour Operators chairman Derek Moore said smaller operators are more hands-on: “This means that service levels and quality is monitored and controlled. This just shows that, in travel, the biggest isn’t necessarily the best.”

Both First Choice and Thomas Cook said they were surprised by the figures.

A spokesman for Thomas Cook said: “Thomas Cook received nearly half a million completed questionnaires from holidaymakers who travelled during summer 2007. These concluded that more than 90% of its customers said they would book with us again and recommend us to their family and friends.”

While First Choice said during summer 2007 it received responses from more than 370,000 of its customers. A spokesman said: “The average holiday rating for summer 2007 was 81%.”

Holiday Which? magazine editor Lorna Cowan added: “With the rise in the number of do-it-yourself holidays, none of the tour operators are in a position to rest on their laurels.”