Skytrax 2018 Awards Announced – Here We Go Again

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I’ve never put too much weight into Skytrax ratings. They’re mainly based on votes from people who have favouritism towards a single airline just because they’ve had a good experience on them before. Most of the people voting have never flown another airline in the same cabin class before.

That being said, it’s always exciting to see the opinions that the general public has towards airlines, which is why I continue to see and report on Skytrax’s rankings, despite the fact that I don’t actually value them at all. Additionally, while the rankings themselves are based on flawed data and results, the rankings actually have quite a large impact on airlines, as Skytrax rankings are quite highly-esteemed.

img_5506Lufthansa being a 5-star airline was probably the industry joke of the year

Today Skytrax released some rewards for this year’s winners in multiple categories. Having flown a number of airlines since this last happened, I’ve been quite…entertained by some of the rankings that Skytrax has released this year. Here’s a roundup of some of the thoughts that I have from Skytrax’s new rankings – for the full list of awards, click here.

Japan Airlines was awarded a 5-star airline ranking

This one’s a ranking that I believe was deserved. While I don’t think most of Skytrax’s 5-star airlines are truly a cut above the rest, I’ve heard overwhelmingly good things about Japan Airlines’ product across all cabins. They’re the only airline to still offer 8-abreast seating on their 787s in economy, their first class and business class hard products are some of the best in the industry, and despite not having flown them before I’ve heard very good things about their soft product. Unless I’ve been reading flawed reviews from a number of different sources, I’d consider Japan Airlines a cut above my experiences on Cathay Pacific, and many cuts above my experiences on Lufthansa (both are also 5-star airlines).

DSCF6004Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Osaka Kansai Airport

Singapore Airlines deserves to be the world’s best airline

Singapore Airlines made a few upgrades to their product this year. They’ve introduced their new A380, including new first class suites, an upgraded business class product, and a new economy seat. Furthermore, their new regional business class is fully-flat, which is a step above any other airline in Asia. Last year Qatar Airways won the title, though they apparently have an underwhelming first class product on their A380s (and their 10-abreast 777 economy product isn’t particularly spacious either), so I’d consider Singapore Airlines to be more well-rounded. Even if they weren’t the world’s best, I’d consider them to be one of the world’s best airlines, and believe this ranking is quite sound (compared to some other ones – stay tuned).

a seat in a planeI’m quite fond of Singapore Airlines’ soft product, and they’ve made a few positive changes to their hard product this year

Can anyone tell me how these airlines are ranked?

While Singapore Airlines deserves to be at #1, I’m a bit confused as to some of the other rankings in the world’s top 100 airlines, and how that correlates to Skytrax’s 5-star ranking. So Emirates, a four-star airline, is the world’s fourth-best airline, Thai Airways (also four-star) is the world’s 10th best airline, and Japan Airlines, the newly-christened 5-star airline, sits at 13? That doesn’t make much sense to me (and I wouldn’t consider Thai Airways to be one of the world’s top 10 airlines, unless the criteria include having as many different types of business class seat as humanly possible).

an airplane parked on a runwayThai Airways, despite being a four-star airline, is better than new Skytrax five-star airline Japan Airlines, according to…Skytrax

EVA Air wins world’s best airport services

If what I’ve read is reliable, I’m not sure how much Sanrio paid Skytrax to rank EVA Air as having the world’s best airport services. I’ve been to the Hello Kitty gate in 2013, and it’s quite fun, but that’s literally the only thing EVA Air has going for them – their ground services are probably the least impressive part of their business class product, and Taipei Airport itself is past its prime. But I haven’t flown them since 2013, so I’ll refrain from commenting.

I’m confused as to how Cathay Pacific got third place for airport services, given there’s no priority for premium passengers and consistently a line for economy passengers. There’s a separate ranking for airline lounge quality, so I’m not sure if they factored that into their ranking – if they did, admittedly Cathay Pacific has some great lounges at their hub Hong Kong Airport. However, regardless of whether they factored in lounge quality, I’m not so sure why Lufthansa’s lackluster ground service got them into the top 10.

img_5418If I was Akbar Al Baker, I wouldn’t be so happy about Lufthansa’s ground services being ranked above Qatar Airways and Hamad Airport

Qatar Airways wins world’s best business class

I’m sure this was a no-brainer for Skytrax. Qatar Airways offers fully flat beds across their entire longhaul fleet, most of which are reverse herringbone seats, and their 2-2-2 business class on their 777s are gradually being replaced by their newest QSuites, which I’ve heard insanely good things about (while the rollout’s not quick, it’s much faster than what we’ve seen on other airlines such as United Polaris). They have dine-on-demand, and their food quality is generally good, even though I’ve had some bad experiences.

a seat in a planeWith this being an “old” business class product for Qatar Airways, it’s easy to see why Qatar Airways has the world’s best business class product

The other rankings are generally quite sound, except that muggy Lufthansa is in the top 10 again, beating out China Airlines, Air France, and Virgin Atlantic with their six-abreast business class product, lackluster lounges, and lackluster soft product.

a bed in a planeI’d take Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class experience (ranked at #19) over Lufthansa’s business class (ranked at #8) any day of the week

Lufthansa also landed in the top 10 for best business class onboard catering (beating out Cathay Pacific, Swiss, and Virgin Atlantic, none of which made the cut), though I won’t beat around the bush.

I don’t actually think Qatar Airways’ onboard amenities are that impressive

Qatar Airways ranked second for onboard amenities, below Hainan Airlines. I’ve heard very good things about Hainan Airlines’ onboard amenities, including a great amenity kit, pajamas, and great bedding. Qatar Airways offers a standard pillow and blanket with no mattress pad, and I find their pajamas to be of a rather low quality as well. Granted, their amenity kits are great, though I just don’t think they deserve to be ranked as high as this category – they beat out United (ranked at #8) with their entire set of Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, and Virgin Atlantic, with their legitimate duvet, better pillow, and mattress pad, ranked at #9.

Also, while I haven’t flown Emirates, they don’t offer pajamas, and I’ve heard their business class blanket is lackluster. They’re ranked above United and Virgin Atlantic, which based on what I’ve heard I wouldn’t think is deserved.

a grey shirt on a tableQatar Airways’ pajamas. Hmmm…

Virgin Atlantic’s lounges were ranked under Qatar Airways’

While both lounges are quite strong showings, I FAR prefer Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse lounge at Heathrow to Qatar Airways’ Al Mourjan lounge in Doha. Qatar Airways has a very nice space in Doha where you can spend time working, relaxing, having a drink at the bar, queueing four half an hour for a quick shower, and working with fast WiFi. Virgin Atlantic has a Clubhouse with a-la-carte dining, a hair salon and spa, as well as all the basic amenities. Comparing the two lounges is like comparing a guinea pig to a racehorse. There’s no way Qatar Airways ranks above Virgin Atlantic. I consider Virgin Atlantic’s hub lounge the world’s best by a mile, while I rank Qatar Airways’ Al Mourjan lounge at #5. But in Skytrax’s rankings, Virgin Atlantic’s lounge still sits at #3, so I’ll stop complaining.

a large room with blue chairs and a large columnQatar Airways’ hub lounge is pimped out, but soulless compared to Virgin Atlantic’s

What I need to complain about is that Cathay Pacific didn’t make the lounge list at all. I’ve been to various Cathay Pacific lounges around the world and their new design is immaculate. Additionally, they have quite a few lounges in Hong Kong, all of which are at least quite good. Their Pier business class lounge in Hong Kong ranks as my second favourite in the world, and they’re more well-equipped than any Singapore Airlines lounge I’ve been to.

IMG_0105Cathay Pacific’s stunning, well-equipped lounges didn’t make the top 10

On the contrary, when it comes to the separate lounge dining category, Cathay Pacific ranked #7, and Virgin Atlantic ranked #9. Cathay Pacific offers a few bowls of (very well-executed) noodles and a small selection of dim sum offerings. Virgin Atlantic offers a full a-la-carte menu featuring foods from a variety of cuisines, and I’ve had multiple three-course dinners in the lounge, all of which were different, though all very well-executed.

a burger and fries on a tableExcellently seasoned, moist and crispy chicken burger in Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse

Lastly, the best airline lounge spa facility went to Thai Airways, beating out Virgin Atlantic and a handful of other airlines with spa facilities for first class passengers. While Thai Airways’ lounges are otherwise lackluster, I’m happy that they won the world’s best lounge spa facility. It’s the only one I’ve had experience with, so I can’t declare that it is the best, though I can testify that it’s very good. However, I do believe that Virgin Atlantic should get credit for offering spa facilities for arriving passengers at their Revivals lounge as well, whereas Thai Airways only offers their facilities to departing passengers.

a room with a couch and a paintingThai Airways Lounge Spa Bangkok Airport

Bottom Line

These are just a handful of the awards that I believed were worth a mention/rant. I don’t weigh these rankings heavily, though I know that airlines do, so it’s still important for them to be credible at the end of the day. While most of the awards were won by airlines that were deserving of the title this year, there were still some surprises. Then again, that’s what happens when you base your rankings off people that aren’t familiar with our industry, some of which have probably flown a single premium product in their entire lives.

Are there any other Skytrax 2018 rankings that surprise you?

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