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Questioning Skytrax's Airline of the Year

Questioning Skytrax's Airline of the Year

Old Jun 10, 06, 10:27 am
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Thumbs down Questioning Skytrax's Airline of the Year

Skytrax has gained considerable clout over the years through maintaining a forum of (edited) passenger opinions and awarding accolades like "Airline of the Year." I am annoyed by the authority Skytrax wields because of the possible lack of checks and balances. The "Airline of the Year" and related results have been quoted in eminent publications like Salon, Forbes and CNN, but reporters do not seem to bother verifying Skytrax's accuracy before echoing Skytrax's press releases. Skytrax's claims of credibility - of biggest and most independent survey - seem to be self-proclaimed. The claims appear to gain strength from blind faith.

This post could be sorely mistaken about the true nature of Skytrax, but anyhow, here is a list of some discontents to move this discussion forward.

1. Conflict of interest. Skytrax claims the "Airline of the Year" award is not influenced by external funding. However, it derives revenue from consulting airlines clients. The same website of "Airline of the Year" displays prominently advertisements and special features of selected airlines.
2. A scandalous rumor broke among industry insiders a few years ago about Skytrax informing survey participants that air tickets from a specified airline were the survey incentive. The truth of the matter needs to be investigated.
3. Opacity of methodology and data. Skytrax sells a detailed report, but otherwise provides scant insight to how the methods and data work to create the lists. I hope to see the provision of at least a summary of data like Shanghai Jiaotong University's ranking of World Universities or Business Week's ranking of Undergraduate B-schools. Skytrax can still sell the remaining rich data mine.
4. Weightage. Air Tahiti Nui, a client and advertiser on Skytrax, won several cabin crew awards despite only having a fleet of 4 (now 5). While small airlines should be able to win awards, small size is necessarily a disadvantage when there are millions of survey responses. How does Skytrax weigh?
5. Suspicious year-to-year inconsistencies. Some years' rankings indicate the top 5 airlines, others top 7, and yet others top 10.
6. Suspicious press release inconsistencies. At the time of this post, the results of the 2006 Airline of the Year was out, but not the results for the First Class or Coach Class. How can the Airline of the Year be determined without the results of the First Class of the Year?
7. Awards Ceremony. Since Skytrax is an online outfit, a reasonable way to gain more trust is to host an awards ceremony, much like the rest of the airline awards industry. Some digging on Google reveals only two Skytrax staff members (CEO, Marketing Director). An awards ceremony will not only recognize the hard work of the airlines, but also the staff of Skytrax, who are currently phantoms.
8. Reciprocal recognition by airlines. There is uneven recognition of Skytrax by airlines. While some airlines (their clients, though correlation doesn't mean causation) are particularly fond of them, while others seem to ignore the awards. For example, British Airways has yet to acknowledge Skytrax for this year's award.
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Last edited by richard; Jun 11, 06 at 9:20 am Reason: promoting sites is advertising that FT TOS generally prohibits
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Old Jun 10, 06, 4:46 pm
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As I've said before, in this general area you've got the perfect situation for airlines and not for consumers: too many awards, but none with the stature for people to notice if you don't win. So you can win one (or, worse, buy one) and advertise it all you want and just move on to something else if someone else wins/buys the next year. It's not like the Masters or the other 3 majors where everyone knows if Tiger Woods is in a slump or not. You can slump and still make yourself look good (example: Delta in the later Mullin days).
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Old Jun 10, 06, 8:28 pm
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I agree there are many awards but disagree that Skytrax has little impact.

1.When airlines advertise all they want about a certain award, consumers notice the award, and an advertised award like Skytrax is gaining more and more attention. Malaysia Airlines devotes entire pages on its website to Skytrax, and Cathay Pacific splashed out full page advertisements, centrefolds, last year (for example, in Wall Street Journal).

2.Especially in this case when Skytrax is portraying itself as a people's choice award using millions of surveys to come up with the ranking.

3.Newspapers are consistently quoting Skytrax as the ranking, in the way they haven't quoted the likes of Conde Nast.

4.Blogging activity on Skytrax is significant. Google trends show searches on Skytrax are especially popular in Asia, where the high ranking airlines have come from (Cathay, Singapore, Malaysia, Thai)

5.Perhaps airlines rankings do have less impact in the States.

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Last edited by richard; Jun 11, 06 at 9:21 am
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Old Jun 11, 06, 10:42 am
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I don't know how much clout the Skytrax honors have -- they get very little attention in the States, probably because no US carrier (CO possibly excepted) is a serious contender for them and because so few Americans fly globally.

I do know any survey dependent on a self-selected non-random sample rather than a proactive outbound sampling effort of random respondents is borderline invalid anyway. The Freddie Awards (which take the additional result-garbling step of applying a nearly incomprehensible weighting algorithm) and Consumer Reports car ratings are suspect for the same reason.

An obscure carrier like Air Tahiti Nui, or any airline that campaigns hard, can go out and achieve a Skytrax honor by stuffing the ballot box.

It's a shame the media circulates reports of Skytrax-type awards so uncritically.
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Old Jun 12, 06, 5:20 am
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I do know IATA conducts its own random sampling survey. That might be the most objective, but available for airline clients only.
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Old Jun 12, 06, 8:13 am
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Originally Posted by BearX220

An obscure carrier like Air Tahiti Nui, or any airline that campaigns hard, can go out and achieve a Skytrax honor by stuffing the ballot box.
How do you suppose that happens?

What I suggest the result demonstrates is that as a percentage of passengers how many are happy.

I suspect a lot of this moaning is sour grapes on the part of the US airline cheerleaders. We all know that in terms of service and product quality, the US airlines are in the toilet with little chance of improvement for the foreseeable future.

I only use them cos they're cheap
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Old Jun 12, 06, 3:07 pm
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Even on the BA board itself, posters question the accuracy and validity of Skytrax despite BA this year winning the airline of year accolade. Shows how much confidence people have when they doubt the victory of their own...
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