Transport Airlines

Etihad Leaves SkyTrax After Expressing Doubts About Its Ratings System

Jun 09, 2014 6:30 am

Skift Take

There’s been grumbling about the quality of Skytrax’s ratings before, but this is the first time an airline has turned openly hostile against the consultancy.

— Marisa Garcia

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Kamran Jebreili  / Associated Press

An Etihad Airways official stands inside the 125-square-foot (11.61-square-meter) area that includes a “living room” partitioned off from the first-class aisle, leather seating, a chilled minibar and a 32-inch flat-screen TV. Kamran Jebreili / Associated Press


Etihad Airways, the Abu-Dhabi based carrier which has given the world its first multi-room hotel suite in the sky, has announced that it will leave the Skytrax ratings service–expressing doubts about the Skytrax ratings system.

The airline has had a continued four-star rating at Skytrax. The highest rating an airline can attain from Skytrax is five stars.

When Etihad’s lavish new cabin products were revealed in May, the program highlighted an incongruity between the airline’s four-star status with Skytrax, its luxury product offering and it’s ongoing number one ranking by the World Travel Awards–for the fifth consecutive year running

In a curt statement, the airline says: “Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has sent a letter to Skytrax formally announcing its decision to withdraw from Skytrax, including the Skytrax World Airline Awards and the Skytrax Audit.”

When we asked Skytrax for comment the organization directed us to a formal statement, in which Skytrax asserts that Etihad’s statement is misleading.

“For a Star Rating audit review where Skytrax work in conjunction with the airline, product consistency, planned changes and aircraft fleet information are transparent and key elements of the assessment criteria. When an airline is either unable or does not wish to provide information that may potentially influence the Star Rating, Skytrax have no option but to curtail work on such project.”

“An airline cannot be withdrawn from the World Airline Awards, since these results are directly decided by customers. Skytrax do not exercise control over which airlines are nominated in the Survey ratings, and to subsequently try and conceal the results of a public vote would be unacceptable.”

“Skytrax is a small, independent airline rating organisation that follows an established code of conduct which has applied to Airline Rating for the past 25 years. Maintaining Skytrax professional reputation is always paramount, and it is perplexing and disappointing when misleading statements are made without any material support.”

Edward Plaisted, Chairman of Skytrax, comments further:

“We assume there is some underlying purpose or agenda behind the statement made by Etihad Airways to which we are not privy. It is their right to make such a decision, but since Skytrax respect and do not publicly discuss issues that apply to both parties in Confidentiality Agreements we enter into with an airline, we cannot comment further on this.”

While Skytrax ratings are based on a combination of these audits and customer rankings, the World Travel Awards, for which Etihad continues to hold the first place position, are based on votes cast by “qualified executives working with travel and tourism and the consumer travel buyer.”

The details on the voting process reveals that “votes cast by travel professionals count as two votes while the votes cast by non-industry voters count as one vote. Votes are internally audited to ensure the validity of each individual vote.”

Only seven airlines hold a Skytrax five-star rating. They are: ANA All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Hainan Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines.

Favorable ratings by both Skytrax and the World Travel Awards are coveted by travel brands. Both their annual rankings are followed closely by the media. Skytrax, based in London, was established in 1989. The World Travel Awards, also based in London, were established in 1993.

Marisa Garcia has worked in aviation since 1994, spending 16 years on the design and manufacturing of cabin interiors and cabin safety equipment. She shares insights gained from this experience on Flight Chic and Tweets as @designerjet.

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