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United Named ‘Airline of the Year’ by Global Traveler

SmarterTravel

Is United the Airline of the Year? (And for clarity, the referenced year is 2014, not 1962.)

According to Global Traveler, “the Source for Luxury Business Travelers,” United is indeed 2014’s airline of the year. United’s companion on the hotel side is Marriott.

United was also the top pick for the Best Transpacific Airline (although it was only third-best to Japan), Best Overall Frequent-Flyer Program, and Best Frequent-Flyer Bonus Program. And it was ranked fourth among the Best Overall Airlines in the World (although it was also fourth-ranked in the Best Airline in North America category).

The publication justified its findings thusly: “Both of this year’s winners are favorites here at Global Traveler; with our team having experienced the exceptional quality of both United Airlines and Marriott Hotels many times. These awards are the pinnacle of success in the travel industry, and winners are evaluated on a number of factors. Both are absolutely among the most trusted names in the travel and hospitality industry.”

That opinion is decidedly at odds with the feedback I hear from readers, who tend to decry United’s customer-handling lapses, its frequent-flyer program devaluations, and current management’s general lack of vision.

Posters on FlyerTalk, an online forum for road warriors, referred to the “hilarity of the rankings” and snarked that “I had to seriously ask whether this was a parody article when looking at these rankings.”

According to another poster, “I subscribe to GT (Global Traveler) and actually quite surprised to read this … it’s as if the marketing teams at GT and UA (United) thought this up.”

At a minimum, the disparity between Global Traveler’s findings and the opinions of real-world travelers calls into question Global Traveler’s survey methodology. The publication isn’t much help, alluding only to “members of the Global Traveler Advisory Board, a hand-picked committee of well-traveled business advisors” who chose the winners from a “list of nominees (selected by GT staff).” As any pollster will tell you, that’s exactly the kind of insular clubbiness that good survey design strives to avoid.

So is United 2014’s It airline? Maybe. All we can say for sure is that you shouldn’t believe everything you read.

Reader Reality Check

Your pick for 2014’s Airline of the Year?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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