TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company) is the undisputed king of hotel user reviews. This week, it begins its quest to attain the same status in the realm of airline flight reviews.
Beginning yesterday, TripAdvisor users were invited to share their qualitative and quantitative assessments of their airline experiences. Other users will be able to read the reviews and rank flight searches by airlines’ FlyScore, which assigns a 1-to-10 grade to each airline flying a given route.
According to the company:
Now it will be easier to research airlines on TripAdvisor and choose the best flight for your trip based not only on the price, but the total experience. With our new airline reviews platform, you’ll not only have access to overall airline ratings and reviews, but you’ll be able to see how other travelers rate specific criteria like legroom, in-flight entertainment, value for money, seat comfort and customer service.
TripAdvisor isn’t the first or only player in the flight-review space. Routehappy, for one, provides a similar service to Expedia, Google, and Kayak, and has been amassing review data for some time.
As of today, of the largest U.S. airlines, there are 2,477 TripAdvisor reviews of American, 1,958 of Delta, 1,227 of Southwest, and 1,719 of United. Those are pretty modest numbers, but given TripAdvisor’s enormous user base, they should increase rapidly. And volume is important when it comes to user reviews, to offset the distorting effects of outliers and fake reviews.
At a time when industry consolidation is diminishing the pressure for airlines to compete, user-review services such as TripAdvisor’s and Routehappy’s at least give travel consumers a fuller picture of what various airlines do offer, and how well or badly they perform. Transparency is no substitute for competition, but it can at least help identify the best and worst providers.
Reader Reality Check
Will you contribute feedback to TripAdvisor’s new review database?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.