More than 2,500 travelers have something to say about their experience with American Airlines; nine share a few words about Buddha Air. Bearskin Airlines has no comments, but TripAdvisor’s flight review service is new. So you could be the first.
The company that pioneered user-generated reviews of hotels, restaurants and attractions added flights to its compliment-or-complain platform this week. The tool, which TripAdvisor has been testing since February, covers more than 300 airlines from around the world, including the stalwarts (American, British Airways), the start-ups (Vanilla Air, Wow Air) and the obscure (Peach, Okay Airways). The submissions come from 48 countries and appear in 29 languages; Google Translate helps with the non-English entries. The review component complements the site’s comparison-shopping section, which provides travel planners with flight itineraries, prices and aircraft specifications.
With the reviews, participants can share their stories — “Fun experience on the plane! Though in-flight entertainment is not available in this budget airline . . . we played small games during the flight,” Agnes Tey wrote about South Korea’s Jeju Air — and rate the airline in eight categories such as legroom, cleanliness, seat comfort and value for money. Tens of thousands of photos snapped by the airlines and passengers accompany the postings. For example, the Swissair page features nearly 145 images. The photo album is heavy on food and beverage pictures but also includes shots of window views and cabin interiors, plus one portrait of a pair of white-sneakered feet resting in a roomy business-class seat.
“There’s power in the image and power in the review,” said Bryan Saltzburg, senior vice president and general manager of TripAdvisor Flights. “They provide travelers with insights they’ve never had before.”
To review an airline, reviewers must register as a member (or sign in if they are already part of the TripAdvisor family) and fill out an online form that asks several basic questions, such as what the class of service was and whether the trip was for business, pleasure or both. The personal description must contain at least 100 characters — so no haikus. A sample review: “Third time I have travelled to London on Royal Brunei Airlines. Business class was very good with comfortable seat/bed, and the food was very taste and plentiful. Be aware that there is no alcohol on any of their flights,” wrote Robert B. of Melbourne.
Each carrier receives a score of one to five bubbles. The company assigns the number based on the reviews plus a value score (1-10) determined by its flight search engine. The company takes into account such amenities as seat pitch, WiFi availability and entertainment options.
“We wondered, ‘How are these reviews going to skew?’ ” Saltzburg said. “On average, they are positive — a 3.7 — just a hair short of what we see on the hotels.”
For instance, Southwest received 4½ bubbles and 1,255 reviews. Kish Air nabbed five bubbles, but only one reviewer has flown the Iranian carrier. A warning to readers: Trust a consensus, not a lone bird or thin flock.
The new tool also gives the carriers a voice. An airline may respond to a comment and publish reviews on its own site. And don’t be alarmed if a flight attendant thanks you for flying Fabulous Airways and then asks you to please post a review on TripAdvisor.
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