Published on Wednesday, November 7, 2012
An investigation by advertising watchdogs into a leading airline and airport review site found it was unable to back up several of its claims, including that reviews on its site were posted by genuine passengers.
The Skytrax Research airline review website www.airlinequality.com claimed to provide an airline rating system and customer reviews for airlines and airports worldwide based on what it said were "checked and trusted airline reviews" from over 5m passengers.
However, the Advertising Standards Authority said there was no evidence that Skytrax had followed the robust procedures it claimed it had in place to check all reviews were genuine. Although Skytrax argued that every review underwent a four-stage authentication process, it said it was unable to provide proof it had followed its own procedures as customer emails were deleted 24 hours after a review was submitted.
The ASA, which launched an investigation into Skytrax following concerns raised by online reputation management business KwikChex, said that because Skytrax did not have the ability to track a review back to its source after the first 24 hours, and therefore could not demonstrate the verification process to which any one particular review on the site had been subjected, it did not hold sufficient evidence to substantiate the claims "Checked and trusted airline review" and "REAL travellers with REAL opinions!".
The ASA also ruled that airlinequality.com's claim that it offered 5m reviews was misleading as the site contained only 400,000. Skytrax claimed it had received 5.4m reviews since 1999, but said the oldest ones had been archived. However, the ASA said readers would be misled into thinking they could read 5m on the site.
Skytrax was also found to have misled the public by claiming to provide an "Official Quality Star Ranking" system as it was unable to prove its claim that it had launched its programme with the backing of the airline and (later) airport industry, and the ASA also said there was no evidence that several titles used by the site, including 5 Star Airlines" were trademarked, as claimed by Skytrax.
In its ruling, the ASA said: "We told Skytrax not to imply that the reviews on their site were checked, trusted and genuine unless they could provide substantiation to that effect. We also told them not to make claims regarding the number of reviews on their site and the frequency with which they reviewed airlines' Star Rankings or to state that titles were trademarked, unless they could provide evidence to substantiate those facts, and not to use the term "Official Quality Star Ranking (TM)" unless they could show that this programme had been created in co-operation with the airline industry as a whole."
Skytrax also runs the www.worldairlinesurvey.com which is frequently quoted by carriers worldwide.
By Linsey McNeill
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