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Thursday, October 18, 2007

What makes for a 1 star airline? 

I’m planning on traveling around the world in 2008. I’ll likely visit South-East Asia, India and Southern Africa.

This takes planning, and lots of research. So, among the many things that I’m looking into, I decided to check up on the airlines of the world. Skytrax ( has given the 5 Start rating system to every airline. While it is an honour to be given 5 stars (only 5 airlines enjoy this ranking) it is just as special to be dished out a single star.

Air Koryo, North Korea’s airline is the only 1 star airline. Meaning that it “represents very poor standards of Product across all travel categories, with poor, inconsistent standards of Staff Service delivery in Onboard and Airport environments.” Also, the EU banned Air Koryo from landing anywhere in its territory.

Here’s what some veteran passengers had to say about Air Koryo: “I was fairly disappointed by the service, however was amused when both pilots came around to say hello to the dignitaries with me, presumably leaving the aircraft on autopilot anyway! Made the journey exciting, I can tell you.”

And another: “Along the runway in Pyongyang you can see the shells of other planes which have obviously been cannibalized to ensure that at least one stays on the air. All in all I would recommend Koryo to anyone who doesn't necessarily regard safety as a priority in their air travel.”

In the 2 star ranking you can find airlines like Sudan Airways and The U.K.’s BMI Baby. A BMIbaby passenger wrote to say, “I hear today's flight out of Glasgow has been diverted to Birmingham.” And there are simply no comments about Sudan Airways. Well, there was one, but the passenger only got half way through the first sentence, and then decided not to finish the comment.

3 star airlines include Myanmar Airways International and Air Canada. MAI passengers noted that the service was “friendly, personable and pleasant.” Another content MAI passenger said that he enjoyed an “excellent hot meal, very good service - even got my own bus from gate to plane. Beats any US carrier.”

On the other hand, one Air Canada customer mentioned that the airline gave him the “worst service I have experienced on ground and onboard.” And one disgruntled business class passenger going between Toronto and Frankfurt stated that “the one movie that was shown on the grainy cabin screen was Beetlejuice.”

The 4 star category gives you Air Tahiti Nui, and of course, Air New Zealand. One ATN passenger was so content with his economy service that he suggests that “other airlines should take a leaf from their training book.” Air New Zealand passengers in premium economy noted that “the service and seat were not worth the extra money paid.” Others noted that with the new Boeing 777, Air NZ is bumping about 1 in 20 passengers, and some of the hotels say that they receive a daily supply of grumpy passengers.

And there are only 5 5-star airlines. Singapore, Cathay Pacific, Asiana, Malaysia Airlines, and Qatar Airlines. Qatar Airlines is a surprise, but passengers agree that the seats in economy recline so far back and smoothly that it is possible to slide right off of them. And as for Singapore, a German passenger gave it an enthusiastic two thumbs up, saying that besides the wide selection of wine and newspapers, during the night the flight attendants “cared for him.” Details are loose on that one, but imagination fills in the blanks.

So fellow wanderlusters, use this advice and knowledge to the best of your ability.

Safe travels.


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