What Makes A Skytrax 5 Star Airline?

We recently reported on Japan Airlines being certified by Skytrax – the London-based air transport rating organisation – as a 5-star airline. With this new addition to the pinnacle of Skytrax ratings, joining the likes of fellow Japanese airline All Nippon Airways and Singapore Airlines – the newly crowned World’s Best Airline for 2018 – we take a closer look into what makes a Skytrax 5 star airline.

What is a 5 star airline?

A Skytrax 5 star airline is uniquely placed at the intersecting summits of airport and onboard quality. The internationally certified accolade marks the achievement of attaining the highest standard in product and service delivery. But how exactly are the ratings decided?

The ratings organisation claim to undertake direct and professional in-depth analysis of airline products and services to reach ‘objective’ ratings, with customer experience at the heart of proceedings. Edward Plaisted, the Skytrax Chief Executive, explains that the ratings programme is intended to asses each airline’s performance in their selected target markets, meaning that 5 star ratings aren’t entirely comparative, but rather distinguish selected airlines as benchmarks of quality in their respective industry fields.


Although Skytrax’s ratings criteria is only available for registered airlines officials, and not for the public due to “commercial reasons”, there are available insights from other sources.


The World Airport and Airline Awards publish their awards methodology along with an extensive set of topics on which both are judged in customer surveys. These topics include: cabin service, language skills, check-in facilities and friendliness.

Lufthansa, the German airline and one of Europe’s largest, is reported to have stated that Skytrax look into “over 800 points” in a detailed and transparent analysis. Airport lounges, frequent flyer and restaurant services were cited as being subject to examination. This statement, however, has not been corroborated.


5 star airlines

The addition of Japan Airlines to the exclusive 5-star club brings the total number to 10. The list includes the following:

There has been past controversy reported by Skift in 2014 when Etihad Airways parted ways with Skytrax after raising concerns about their rating methods, only to be reinstated with a 5 star rating. Despite this minor setback, Skytrax remains the leading authority in air transport quality ratings. The Skytrax website states their airline ratings are “recognised as a global benchmark of airline standards”.


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George Ownbey

How can an airline be a 5 star airline when they only offer 31″ of pitch in an economy seat especially on long hauls? EVA and Qatar do not belong on this list. Seats are cramped for taller passengers. The minimum for 5 star should be 33″ on long hauls and 32 on regional flights or atleast accomodation for taller passengers without forcing the tall tax. Your standards are too low.

M Cheung

I think you should take into account of the airline’s ground staff customer service in your ratings. On board, their flight crews do their best to please, but on the ground it is a totally different story. I query Qatar airway on a recent flight and having flown with them for over 10 years, why they couldn’t even waive a 2kg baggage excess. A perfect opportunity to show some appreciation for customer’s loyalty. All I had was a template reply, no apology and the queries wasn’t even addressed. A further email resulted in further templates reply and referral to the… Read more »