Etihad Airways Gets A Skytrax 5-Star Rating

It has just been announced that Etihad Airways is the 9th airline to get a Skytrax 5-Star rating, but it hasn’t come without some controversy. Per the press release:

Etihad Airways has received the Skytrax Certified 5-Star Airline Rating – the most coveted quality standard in the airline industry, further strengthening its position as a leader in innovative guest experience, service and hospitality.

  • UAE’s national airline recognised for exceptional guest experience, service and hospitality
  • Extensive audits commend exemplary staff, fine dining approach, innovative seating and products in all classes and at signature airport lounges
  • Airline committed to providing the world’s best travel experiences throughout the guest journey

The rating follows an exhaustive three month audit of the airline’s global product and service offering by the London-based research consultancy. The announcement was made at a special event held today at Etihad Airways’ Innovation Academy in Abu Dhabi.

The Skytrax Certified 5-Star Airline Rating is used to certify airline product and service, and is awarded to airlines achieving the highest overall quality performance, recognising excellence in product and front-line staff service across the customer journey. Airlines are assessed on criteria across all cabins including seating, safety procedures, inflight entertainment, cabin cleanliness, comfort amenities, catering, duty free sales, and reading materials.

Etihad Airways joins ANA, Asiana, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Hainan, Qatar, and Singapore, which are the other airlines with a 5-star rating.

As far as the “big three” Gulf carriers go, both Etihad and Qatar now have 5-star ratings. Emirates must not feel very good being the odd airline out, but then again, with a majority of their longhaul fleet not even having flat bed seats in business class, I’m not surprised by their lack of a 5-star rating.

But the real interesting part of this story is that Etihad denounced Skytrax and wanted to withdraw from the rating system back in mid-2014. As far as I know they’re the only airline that took such a hard stance against Skytrax. At the time the airline withdrew after they “carried out a review of the criteria and measurements of the Skytrax Airline Rating System.”

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Etihad Airways A380

At the time a Skytrax representative commented the following:

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 of Skytrax commented: “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.”

So I really do wonder what has gone on behind the scenes here. I suspect Etihad decided that Skytrax was “broken” because they didn’t rank them as 5-stars, but now that this has changed, they once again view Skytrax as the gold standard. 😉

I’ve never really put much weight on Skytrax ratings, given that they seem to be quite arbitrary. For example, I’m not sure I follow how Asiana and Hainan are 5-star airlines — I certainly wouldn’t rank either of them in the top 8-9 airlines in the world.

Bottom line

Regardless of the politics behind the scenes here, congrats to Etihad on this rating. Etihad is one of the best airlines out there, and has done a lot to innovate onboard products. They certainly deserve this ranking, arbitrary as it may be.

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Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartment

What do you make of Etihad being ranked a Skytrax 5-star airline?

Comments

  1. Etihad definitely deserves this long awaited 5-star rating! So happy for them! I took F from AUH-SYD this summer and was extremely satisfied with my flight!

  2. How can Skytrax be trusted? They conduct an audit, but the audit results are kept for themselves and based thereon they give a rating. What happens behind the scenes, we don’t know. Apart from all this, its always based on service and how great the product is, with regards to seats, food, entertainment, pampering of passengers in premium classes. There, in many cases, its also a very personal decision of the passenger. Some passengers, will consider LH or LX F the top of the top, others will go for SQ or CX or EK. At the end, its very individual.
    In my view whats more important, but is never shown, are how does an airline deal when things go wrong: lost luggage, delays, cancellations. This is where an airline will prove itself. Also, not much is being said about the technical and safety standards, crew training etc….. Lastly the financial aspects of an airline should be taken into consideration. So, in my view, all those ratings do not mean very much to me. What influences my decision is rather what passengers have to say about the airline.

  3. I’ve not flown them in Y but EY are absolutely in the top 5 airlines I’ve flown in J and have the best F product I’ve ever experienced, with the A380 apartments

    Skytrax has become decidedly more accurate today, in ranking EY as a 5* airline.

  4. Lucky perhaps what happened was the other way around – Skytrax realised EY denouncing them was just about the worst thing that could happen to their reputation so ‘cleaned up their act’ and fixed whatever problems EY complained of (other than just giving them a 5 star rating) to EYs satisfaction for them to rejoin/pledge their support. I doubt EY would simply change its mind because Skytrax dangled a carrot.

  5. Ben – Etihad has previously zero clout over Skytrax. Your theory makes no sense whatsoever, and Etihad are now five star because they fit the five star criteria during the sample period.

    Not that 5 star means anything at all. As an economy flyer I can’t say Qatar was any better than the three star alternatives I’ve flown.

  6. “They certainly deserve this ranking”

    Spoken with a lot of confidence for someone who hasn’t flown every class of service with them, especially longhaul.

  7. I’ve flown twice in First (A380 & A345) and 4 times in Business (A340 & A320) with them and all the experience has been fantastic. A380 First experience was the best of any airline, including the ground service in their newly refurbished F Lounge at AUH (it’s cozy, but service attention is top notch).

  8. I’m skeptical of this as well. I’ve flown EY and EK in all their cabins (F/apt, J, and Y) and I’d say overall I was happier with EK (then again, I was an EK gold before they had the platinum tier and only have flown EY five times.)
    Anyway, I think EK is still happy given they won the “Skytrax Best Airline” this year.
    BTW, I recall Malaysia Airlines had a 5 star rating as well but did skytrax provide reasons why they were removed?

  9. I’ve flown EY a lot in F and J over the last two years, and all I can say is that the experience is HIGHLY inconsistent. While I will say that the hard product is generally good (but J on the 777 and 330 is not), the service onboard can be WILDLY inconsistent. this summer I flew DUS-AUH on the 787 in J. This was a great flight and I find the J cabin on the 787 to be very comfortable. Food and service on this flight were great. Then, when I left AUH, I flew AUH-IAD on the 787 in F. This was a terrible flight. While the seat was comfortable as always, the service left a LOT to be desired and really dragged down the flight. Bad attitude and bad service from all crew I encountered. Earlier this year I flew JFK-AUH in F on the 380, and that was very good, then AUH-LAX on the 777 in F – another great flight. And over the last two years I’ve flown all over the world in J and F. What I’ve noticed, besides the inconsistent onboard service, is that quantity and quality of onboard meals in all classes has declined. I know several people who work at EY in headquarters who have confirmed that budgets for onboard food/beverage have been cut drastically. and it shows. Furthermore, many have said that their CEO has stated many times that the quality of the food/beverage can be reduced because what’s most important to passengers is the hard product/ seat comfort. YMMV, but that’s not what I want to hear from the CEO of a supposed 5 star airline. Either way, in my experience, EY provides a comfortable seat sometimes with variable service. If the price is right and they’re going where I need to go, I could fly them, but I would not seek them out. To each their own I suppose.

  10. Skytrax is full of s***.
    No one should trust Skytrax’s airline ratings; the ratings are totally made up and they rank airline without even trying themselves.
    EY might have a fantastic first class product, but their customer service agents at the airport and on the phone are horrible.
    Terrible customer service is something a 5-star airline absolutely cannot have.

  11. Skytrax used to say that 5-star airlines needed not to have 10-abreast configurations in economy on 777s, which was presumably what kept EY and EK out most definitively. But now that even CX and the like have moved to 10-abreast, presumably Skytrax gave up on that.

  12. It’s just nuts how an airline can be rated at a scale from 1-5 just like its a specific car model.
    Products vary so much within the airline from top notch to completely rubbish: my last experience with them was EY flag route ADH to HKG that is actually served by daughter airline Seychelles Air, narrow body, old aircraft. I learned that on my skin. Never again will touch EY.

    its as nuts as generalizing and grading a county.

    Who could even bother and take it seriously.
    On top of that, how naive can you be to think ratings are not bias in a world where countries buy World cups bids.

  13. @JP – spot on. Response to problems is the mark of a good airline, along with performance in all cabin classes. A quick google of reviews online for etihad paints a very different story to a “5 Star” airline. SQ generate much more favourable reviews from the bums in seat masses. Looking after premium pax is only one aspect of operating an airline…

  14. I just love this, and I will make a blog-post myself during the weekend covering this topic.
    The airline industry must be the overall most “self-diggy” ?
    In any other business you would typically work your ##s for 10 years plus, and would be able to produce a hefty profit.
    In anything starting with “air+xxx”, you would within a year + be able to attend a fair anywhere around the world. You could be up for a great price +++, you would be loosing most of your own money + the shareholders, but be the best propeller airline in the Vatican, just for being rude.

    Joke aside, the MEB3 have really given the legacy carriers from different nations something to think about. But when EK has just introduced a new route carrying Norwegian Salmon out of Oslo on a weekly basis, there is still possibility to make money in the air.

    @Lucky,

    Thanks for running this blog !
    Cheers

  15. @Ben says:
    October 13, 2016 at 9:38 am
    How come no white people airlines are ranked 5 star? Reverse racism.

    Wow… Just wow…. “White people airlines”? I don’t know where to start mr Grand wizard. You know Trump will be gone very very soon, and ignorant waste of air scumbags like you will be reminded that is 2016. I feel sorry for people that know you, have to deal with you, or worse be related to you. You stupid stupid little man.

  16. Etihad (and Emirates) customer service is dog shit. If something goes wrong they treat you like dirt. Fuck Skytraxx

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