Skytrax Has Lost All Credibility With Their Lufthansa 5-Star Ranking

Yesterday we learned that Lufthansa received a Skytrax 5-star rating, making them the first non-Asian airline to receive that ranking. Ultimately I don’t put too much weight into Skytrax rankings and at times I question their methodology and conflict of interest, though usually I find their rankings are at least within the realm of possibility, even if I personally disagree.

However, the more I read about Skytrax’s self-proclaimed methodology and about Lufthansa’s ranking, the more questions I have. As I explained yesterday, what I really take issue with is this statement from Skytrax’s CEO:

A key factor behind Lufthansa gaining 5-Star Airline Certification is the recently announced new business class cabin and seat that will be delivered when the airline receives their first Boeing 777X aircraft. 

When you look at the background provided by Skytrax on how they come up with star ratings, they say this:

The consistency of an airline’s Product and service is a critical issue within their final Rating, and detailed focus is applied to the delivered realities. Particular attention is applied to the quality and consistency of cabin seating, IFE systems and associated cabin products. An airline offering less than 80% fleet-wide product consistency may find these conditions will have a negative impact on their final quality rating determination.

So consistency is important, and any airline with less than 80% consistency could find that that those conditions lead to a negative impact on their final rating? Yet a key factor in Lufthansa getting their Skytrax 5-star rating was a product that they’ll begin to theoretically introduce in 2020, and in reality it will probably be several more years until 80% of the fleet features the product? So is Lufthansa just being loaned a 5-star rating about seven years early? Absolutely ridiculous.

In looking at past announcements when airlines were given Skytrax 5-star ratings, not once did I see an airline get a rating based on any future products they’d be introducing.

Lastly, I was a bit surprised when less than two weeks ago Lufthansa announced their new business class product, well over two years before it would actually be introduced. Lately the trend seems to be that airlines reveal the details of their new seats weeks before a product is introduced, rather than years before.

Is it a coincidence that Lufthansa revealed the details of their new product over two years before it’s being introduced (unusually early), and then just days later got a Skytrax 5-star rating?

Something doesn’t add up here, and I’m disappointed. While I can’t personally speak to the accuracy of this, the below sure seems quite plausible.

And yup…

What do you guys think — can anyone make sense of Lufthansa’s new business class being a “key factor” in their ranking, more than two years before it’s going to be introduced, and many years before 80% of the fleet will have the new product?

Comments

  1. Hi Lucky

    I work for a major international 4* Skytrax airline – and was recently involved in a skytrax audit which happened around July.

    Could I anonymously submit details on how the skytrax audit works with the auditor etc? I’m sure you’d be interested to hear.

    Cheers

    Brandon

  2. Lucky, this type of review is what makes you distinguished from others. Well done! Keep pushing ethics, transparency, and honesty within the industry!

  3. The mention of the future business class is only the cherry in the cake.
    The main issue here is granting 5 stars where very few of the individual voices in the rating actually reach such mark.

    LH is not on par with other European airlines. AF has got better business class, better F (or so I am told), better premium economy, better food. And yet I would not give AF 5 stars. I mean, it means considering an airline on par with QR: sorry, but no, not LH.

  4. Lucky’s favorite airline QR is also Skytrax 5-star yet i don’t hear any faux outrage from him over that

  5. I can’t belejve you thought Skytrax was credible in the first place . I mean they rate the middle eastern carriers at 5 stars yet I’ve had problems with emirates and they rate airlines like United, American, or even Aeromexico as 3 stars or so and those are that time and time again I have good experiences with. Skytrax is very biased and not objective at all.

  6. I have to agree with Ben, this 5 star rating is frankly bizarre. Lufthansa is a good airline, but it isn’t the best – some of the recent editions are deserving and well overdue i.e. EVA Air, others I would argue are gratuitous and brings into question Skytrax’s auditing e.g Hainan and now Lufthansa.

    There reviews are open to abuse too – anyone who has read the frantic stream of China Southern reviews with bad english can tell it is being gamed, no real person I have met has been impressed with China Southern and then had the impetus to go post a review but they don’t seem too bothered…

  7. Isn’t LH regional J also a Y product with a blocked middle seat? I guess this is also Skytrax 5-star worthy!

  8. (I would add in the past the majority were a good navigator of finding excellent airlines i.e QR, ANA, Asiana, Singapore, Garuda are generally outstanding airlines – so this really does really bring into question Skytraxs auditing, with the edition of Etihad given their previous history with Skytrax and now Lufthansa’s rather bizarre award)

  9. Just ignore – I mean not that long ago Skytrax had Malaysia Airlines as a 5-star airline. This was an airline with a filthy lounge, a hugely variable fleet, and a business product that was extremely poor in comparison to regional competition (eg. Qantas). It’s just laughable.

  10. @ari LMAO.

    This is sort of like American airlines getting a financial stewardship award because “they will never lose money ever again.”

  11. they are as reliable and balanced as any USA / UK based corporate news source.

    But some people are still fooled by them.

    Having said that, LH is still one of my preferred carriers.

  12. The other 5* airlines should be furious about this news since lufthansa joined their club. For an average person it’s impossible to know skytrax is a joke but for those who know the industry even a bit lufthansa and skytrax just fooled themselves. I just couldn’t stop laughing at this one

  13. Skytrax has no credibility from very beginning. You should publish your own airlines ranking and I believe that would be more reliable than what Skytrax has.

  14. @Brandon:

    Why not just post it all here in a very long comment post? I’m especially curious to know how much LH (or any other airline) pays for their rating. I think we can all agree that Skytrax is in no way an arbiter of airline quality, but it’d still be interesting to know how much five stars costs.

    Ultimately, though, I highly doubt anyone who routinely flies in premium cabins has chosen their airline based on the Skytrax rating; they’re either using points as a result of these types of blogs, are using points because they’re loyal to an airline due to work or hub city or something similar, found the best deal on Google Flights. The types of fliers to be impressed/duped by Skytrax aren’t the type that are going to be generally populating F and J cabins. Really though, Skytrax is just taking the airlines for fools and we’re all having a hearty laugh at their expense. And typing long-winded comments like this. Huzzah!

  15. What I don’t understand is why JAL is not a 5 star with SKYTRAX like ANA. TripAdvisor customers gave Japan Airlines the “BEST AIRLINE” in Japan award.

    TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site and well-known for offering reviews from million of travelers, announced its first annual “2017 Travelers’ Choice Awards for Airlines” based on the airline reviews submitted on TripAdvisor, and Japan Airlines has been chosen as the “Best Airline” in Japan.

    How can Japan Airlines be the best airline in Japan, yet ANA has a 5 STAR From SKYTRAX?

    Something don’t add up.

    What do you think BEN? Does JAL deserve a 5 STAR, like ANA? Your thoughts sir.

  16. @Morley the problem with that is that Ben nevers flies coach which represents 70% or more of the seats on the plane. A comprehensive rating should take every aspect into account.

    That being said, LH is no way a 5* carrier.

  17. I find the 80% fleet-wide consistency interesting, especially given how varied the business class on QR is, for example. A very good article though – Skytrax really has lost it… I agree with Daunt in that other carriers have better economy, premium economy, business and first experiences around Europe. Really bizarre move from Skytrax.

  18. Ben, you’re being totally unfair to Lufthansa here. They have way better than 80% consistency on their J product – they have 100% of their fleet without all-direct-aisle-access business class seats and should get a sixth star for that consistency!

  19. @AdamR – I believe that technically airlines cannot pay for a star ranking, but they can and do pay for “consulting” from Skytrax on how to achieve a better star ranking. In a perfect world that would correlate with improvements in the passenger experience, as opposed to just “studying to the exam,” but when $ is involved I think we can all figure out what really goes on, particularly when they have something as egregious as rewarding Lufthansa for vaporware.

  20. @02nz:

    Absolutely. I’m also tickled that you used the term vaporware. I was being tongue-in-cheek about the cost of five stars because I knew Skytrax had a “consulting” service. [Insert huge eye roll.] Totally absurd and awfully transparent – fox guarding the henhouse and whatnot. But you have to give Skytrax a hand; they’ve successfully cultivated a market for which they’re the primary (sole?) supplier.

  21. @AdamR – I use “vaporware” as a bit of an exaggeration, of course, since Lufthansa will eventually roll this product out. But the way Skytrax does this does really destroy their credibility. I recall that ago they certified (or recertified) Asiana as a five-star airline based on their (then just-introduced) “Quadra Smartium” product. That was probably around five years ago, and all this time later Asiana still flies many long-haul routes with angled seats in J. Asiana has good service, but like Lufthansa and several others on the “five-star” list, it doesn’t deserve to be ranked among the very best airlines in the world.

  22. I have to agree with you.
    The worse thing is that Lufthansa is making a huge marketing campaign about “winning this award” in social media.
    I’m not CEO of anything, but I wonder what does this bring to the company.

    One thing is right: Lufthansa does provide a consistency experience. Their business class seats are all the same, either in long-haul or short-haul (eurocrapbusiness). And they are a step up from being just average. Their economy class is nothing to write about. Their First Class is still good, but not great.

    In a way, I think Cathay Pacific offers a better overall experience than Lufthansa.

  23. I agree that Skytrax is more of a vague reference on how good or bad an airline is and I also agree that LH doesn’t deserve to be seen as equally good as i.e. QR (but that’s the same with several other airlines with a “5* Skytrax”. And I think that Skytrax’s argument that the announcement of the new business class was a key factor is just stupid. There is a big “but” though. If you check on the details of the ranking you will see that the long-haul Business Class ranking did not change. It still got only 4 stars. It is actually eco and premium eco that put LH at the 4.5 average that’s required for a 5 star ranking. Whether a full 5 star long-haul eco is a fair valuation is another question, but they didn’t change their valuation of the long-haul business. They did however make the mistake of implicating that the announcement alone of the new business class did have an impact on the new business ranking. Why? I don’t know.

  24. According to the 2017 list, Lufthansa’s business class ranked 5th behind Etihad airways (also a sub-par business class product due to the cuts made to the experience). Lufthansa has last-generation seats (although is consistent and offers the same product fleet-wide) and soft product isn’t bad, but not great either. Only thing to set them apart is Bose headphones and good IFE. Also, ANA ranked higher than Singapore airlines. I find these ratings difficult to trust. However, I don’t think that Skytrax meant that the main reason they gave Lufthansa the award was because of the announcement, rather that it was a small consideration. Although, having said this, if they are being judged on a future product the award of most-improved airline should be awarded (maybe next year). The 5-star airline cannot only be judged on business class, though, and Lufthansa excels in all other cabin classes (economy, premium economy and first class), so maybe this award does have some substance behind it.

  25. I’m totally with you. Their business class departure lounge at FRA is a total zoo in afternoon, flat seat not-too-comfortable, mediocre meal (was literally the least favorable meal in sky that I couldn’t finish eating – not a usual case), and their many-talking infamous European business class. Even Austrian short-haul business class seat is a bit more comfortable.

    Well, Air Koryo receiving a 1 star, and Iranian air carriers receiving 2 stars, something isn’t right. I’m going to test Mahan Air business class this weekend where reading the reviews from the same source the average rating is 4 star on all categories except one. Well done for this article – it literally unveiled their reality.

  26. Just to add my 2 Cents.

    Lufthansa did not recieve the rating for their business Long haul but for improvements in their economy and premium economy and their short haul Business class.
    there is a good article by Johannes: https://travel-dealz.de/blog/lufthansa-skytrax/
    But I still dont think they are rerally 5*!
    Regarding Hainan Airlines I flew a lot with them lately and the Service and also the business class in their narrow Boys was impeccable!

  27. First off, agree with the vast majority of commenters that this is absolutely a pathetic joke, and LH is clearly a 4* airline. The statement from the chairman of Skytrax was especially egregious. Giving an airline an extra star for a promised future product means literally any airline could achieve 5 stars in theory (read, with enough money).

    Having said that I think a lot of relatively infrequent or moderately frequent travelers DO pay attention to Skytrax rankings, at least in a peripheral sense when making their decisions, so it’s hard just to laugh his off. Lufthansa have (apparently) paid for a massive worldwide “ad” that misrepresents their quality of service.

    Does anyone remember when Skytrax had some credibility with these rankings? While I never used these as the basis for a decision, I don’t recall thinking they were this terrible/outrageously corrupted, say 5+ years ago? Certainly Hainan, Asiana, and LH should not be on that list… what’s next, Alitalia?

  28. The guy on the right needs to have his pants tailored. Way too long.

    Oh sorry we were talking about something called Skytrax?

  29. Skytrax lost all creditability when they added Etihad to their small group.
    The way Etihad is going I can see them being the first airline to lose their status. They will be scrapping to even make a 4 star airline these days, with all their cost cutting & appalling service!

  30. Well, hopefully nobody already said so (couldn‘t bring myself to read all the posts)… Skytrax has very well taken all Lufthansa‘s flaws into consideration. Otherwise, of course, they would be the world‘s first 6* airline! 😉

  31. @Brandon : i agree with you that JAL fully deserves the 5-star award, regardless of Skytrax’s credibility issues. i’ve recently flown them when i wasn’t feeling well at all, and the crew really took care of me.

  32. Rankings….. No matter what topic they are related is there any of them that have credibility? Rankings all vary on methodology and are biased in some way. They may give you an indication but one should never rely or make their decision based on rankings.

  33. @Ari: I totally agree with you. It makes no sense to be awarded a prize on the sole basis of promising a future development or innovation. So, if Airbus were to reveal renders for a triple-deck airliner, would it be named the world’s best airplane manufacturer?

  34. Agree with the many that skytrax doesn’t have credibility in however they’re ‘judging.’ Similar to above points, ANA is at best a 4 star experience, and many lower rated airlines do better.

    I would say LH’s online support/social media is 5*… but that doesn’t make the overall rating.

  35. In my experience, Skytrax ratings are a fallacy but the statement that you publish from their CEO helps to clarify the situation :

    The consistency of an airline’s Product and service is a critical issue within their final Rating, and detailed focus is applied to the delivered realities.

    Perhaps this might be the only reason why Hainan Airlines is ranked five star? On a recent flight from Paris to China, the economy toilet washbasins were all without running water for the entire 10 hour flight. No alcohol (apart from beer and wine) was available despite being offered on the hand-out paper menu.

    On the return sector, only half of the toilets were available after “flood problems” resulted in the other facilities being put out of service and bolted shut.

    After requesting a gin and tonic (several times), I was eventually brought a small shot of cognac.

    On both flights, the requested selection from the meal menu was unavailable (despite being one of the first passengers to be served).

    Hainan Airlines is NOT on a par with Singapore, ANA, Cathay or the Gulf trio and nobody should be put under such a wildly false misconception.

  36. In the detailed ranking, LH got 4 stars for the short/medium haul business class seating, used even on quite long flights like FRA-TLV or CAI… The rating of Business Class Lounge in Frankfurt is not adequate, too. It is ways too crowded to have 4,5 stars.

  37. @Lucky.
    You are right.
    I fly LH a lot, loung haul always business class, short haul economy or business.
    No way LH is a five star.
    Four star on a lucky day

  38. Skytrax is a pay-to-play entity and not as independent as they suggest to the flying public.

    I’m told by insiders that airline managers are aware of exactly which flights Skytrax auditors are on, and the airlines routinely beef up their service and staffing during the audit.

  39. I get a feeling that the forward-looking statement re LH’s new business class receives way too much weight in this discussion. LH has increased its scores in short-range business class, premium eco and eco. I don’t have a clue how they managed but paid auditors believe to have seen enough evidence.
    It has taken LH until 2015 to reconfigure their A380 fleet to the current business class configuration.
    Maybe it’s just me, but I think it is a good sign that LH announced a new business class for 2020 and thus signalled that they want to futher invest. Nothing wrong about that.
    That being said: the Skytrax Ratings are far from neutral and objective.

  40. Somebody needs to start a new ranking program because, yes, Skytrax is absolute rubbish.

    Credit really needs to be given for market-specific similarities, i.e. long-haul to long-haul (the JFK-LHR route, for example), larger continental markets (think USA, Australia, and probably Europe), etc.

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but looking just at the 3-4 hour flight experience, the U.S. carriers are probably the leaders, at that deserves some credit because not every flight is a 9+ hours that gets you entry into some specialty lounge.

    LH’s ranking was purchased, so good for them. If I could sell expensive stars like Skytrax, I would.

  41. I agree on most things.
    Yet I have flown 73 Lufthansa flights this year. I had one cancellation -> automatic re-routing and received my new boarding pass within 20 mins of announcement with the Lufthansa app.
    The maximum delay in all those flights was 30mins because of a technical failure.

    It is hands down the most reliable Airline I have ever used extensively (in stark contrast to most US carriers). I dont know how heavy that is weighted in the Skytrax rating -> but reliability is alot more important to me than isle access

  42. Just for good measure, I have made some fake Skytrax business card with my name that I will put in my hand baggage and luggage: who knows, maybe I will get some good upgrades!

  43. I totally agree!

    Hainan Airline is a joke maximum 3 stars.

    They don’t even have functional online booking system a lot of time, and their overseas customer service line is no English at all, and really not helpful.
    Not even mention the cabin products, not even clean seat, or bathroom. Really shame

  44. Maybe LH doesn’t deserve 5-Stars. But what are the exact criteria? I have flown most of the major airlines in J and Y and only NH in F…and based on my (limited) experience with LH in J, they compete very favorably in J. Y is cramped but service excellent. Not nearly as good as SQ (which is the standard bearer for Y hard and soft product IMO) but pretty decent. And while I have not flown F or been to the F terminal in FRA, it sounds like that is as 5-Star as it gets…So while some things are not 5-Star, some are. And apart from a very small number of airlines that truly stand out, LH should rank fairly far up there based on my own experience. But as always, YMMV.

  45. Skytrax is overrating Star Alliance members. Only SQ (and perhaps NH) are deserving 5-star airlines. Not BR and certainly not OZ or LH. I agree that JL must most definitely be made a 5-star airline as JAL seems to be all around slightly better than NH.

    But the true diamond in the rough is GA, which had given established 5-star names like CX and Singapore a run for their money.

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