Thomas Cook, Tui and First Choice have been ranked the worst operators in a poll of more than 4,000 holidaymakers.

The UK’s biggest operators rated poorly on criteria including value for money, organisation and quality of reps in their resorts, according to consumer organisation Which?

Its annual package holiday provider rankings saw the three major firms fall behind competitors when customers rated package operators on areas such as customer service, accommodation, value for money and whether their holidays lived up to the claims made in brochures and websites.

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Holidaymakers rated Thomas Cook last of 11 companies with a “disappointing” customer score of 69% and “mediocre” three-star ratings for accommodation, customer service and value for money.

One in four Thomas Cook customers told Which? they had encountered a problem on holiday with the most common issues relating to the reps, lengthy flight delays and poor customer service.

The company was awarded a two-star rating for its holiday reps, with travellers complaining that they were often unhelpful, or simply non-existent.

While Tui and sister all-inclusive operator First Choice performed slightly better than Thomas Cook, receiving three and four-star ratings across the board and a “satisfactory” customer score of 74% and 75% respectively, both firms still finished behind eight other providers in the rankings.

Some Tui customers complained about poor customer service, unprofessional holiday reps and disappointing accommodation facilities.

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A number claimed they paid extra for a better hotel view that never transpired.

Customers told Which? Travel that while holidays with these companies were not dreadful, the experience offered was nowhere near as good as the consistently excellent package holidays offered by other providers.

Trailfinders was rated the best package holiday company overall with a score of 91% and the only provider with five-star ratings for any category – for both customer service and holiday organisation.

The company also received four-star ratings for value for money, accommodation and consistently meeting customer expectations.

Jet2holidays followed closely with a score of 87% and four-star ratings across all categories after impressing holidaymakers with excellent customer service and a policy offering a free 22kg luggage allowance for passengers.

Which? research found the average cost per day for a short-haul holiday with Jet2holidays was the same as Tui and Thomas Cook – despite Jet2 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 that the big players must up their game if they are to compete with rivals doing a better job of giving customers what they want,” the organisation said.

Which? Travel deputy editor 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 spokeswoman said the survey did not appear to be representative of its customers.

She added: “Our own customer satisfaction scores, which incorporate the feedback of tens of thousands of customers, are significantly higher.”

A Tui spokesman described the result as disappointing.

“We recognise the importance of great customer service and must do even more,” he told The Times.

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