Etihad's shock exit sparks ratings row

Last updated 08:10 11/06/2014

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Etihad Airways' decision to withdraw from Skytrax airline review and ratings services has sparked an airline ratings row, with Skytrax hitting back over a "misleading" statement by the carrier that has called into question the Skytrax ratings system.

In a statement, the Middle-Eastern airline said it sent a letter to UK-based Skytrax formally announcing its decision to withdraw from Skytrax ratings services, including the Skytrax World Airline Awards and the Skytrax Audit. 

"The decision was made after Etihad Airways carried out a review of the criteria and measurement of the Skytrax Airline Rating System," its reads.

"The measurement of customer satisfaction and feedback is important to Etihad Airways. The airline subscribes to monthly industry research and undertakes comprehensive monthly surveys to monitor customer satisfaction, using the insights to continually improve its products and services."

The statement raises questions as to the 'finer' reasons for Etihad Airways' decision to withdraw from the Skytrax ratings service, and has prompted Skytrax to hit back over the questioning of its methodology.

In a statement, Skytrax responded to Etihad's request to withdraw, saying the statements made by the airline are "misleading" and have been "made without any material support".

"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," the Skytrax statement reads.

Skytrax added that airlines cannot request to be withdrawn from the annual World Airline Awards as the result is directly decided by customers.

"An airline cannot be withdrawn from the World Airline Awards, since these results are directly decided by customers.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 claims it is an independent airline rating organisation and has applied the same code of conduct to its airline rating system 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."

When contacted by Traveller for comment, an Etihad spokesperson said the airline "had nothing more to say" in response to Skytrax's statement and could not confirm if the airline conducts regular reviews of Skytrax Airline Ratings System. 

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The departure of Etihad Airways from Skytrax follows the airline's recent unveiling of its luxury 'residence' cabin suite and the opening of its first premium airport lounge in Australia. 

It's unlikely this row with Skytrax will affect the airline's plan to expand its network of flight routes and its push to gain a stronghold in the luxury travel market. However, it does beg the question why the carrier has opted out of Skytrax when it has continually received high ratings.

Etihad Airways has received a continued four-star rating at Skytrax, with five stars being the highest rating an airline can receive. Currently, 35 airlines in the world hold the Four-Star Airline Rating. 

According to the Skytrax website, "4-Star Airline Rating is achieved by airlines that provide a good product standard across different travel categories, combined with good standards of Staff Service applied to both the Cabin Service and Airport Environments".

Seven airlines currently have the Five-Star Airline Rating: Nippon Airways; Asiana Airlines; Cathay Pacific Airways; Hainan Airlines; Malaysia Airlines; Qatar Airways; and Singapore Airlines.

Skytrax provides consultancy advice to the air-transport industry.

- FFX Aus

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