TripAdvisor now lets users review airlines, but how will they respond?

TripAdvisor now lets users review airlines, but how will they respond?

We’ve been able to review nearly everything from hotels and restaurants to movies, music albums and consumer products as niche as anime inspired socks on a myriad of websites like Yelp, Amazon and Rotten Tomatoes for years now. But have we ever been able to properly review airlines?

Not in a formal networked setting, and that’s because most travel websites have primarily focused on getting you the cheapest flight options. Today, TripAdvisor announced the launch of traveler airline ratings on TripAdvisor Flights, the site’s flight meta-search engine. The new feature allows travelers to give candid feedback on airline experiences and share with other fliers so users can make better travel decisions.

As we headed into 2011, we felt the time was right to launch airline ratings as it’s a natural evolution of TripAdvisor’s mission of providing travelers with trusted travel advice, this time as it relates to airlines. We think airline ratings on TripAdvisor Flights will further help travelers find the right flight and airline for their travel needs.

– Bryan Saltzburg, the GM of TripAdvisor Flights

Their rating system offers 8 airline rating categories covering various aspects of the flight experience that can be rated by travelers on a scale of one to five, including baggage handling, check-in experience, in-flight amenities, in-flight service, punctuality, reasonableness of fees, seat comfort and value. Travelers can view airline ratings by clicking on a carrier’s name and also add ratings of their own as long when signed in as a TripAdvisor member.

Originally I thought that most airline reviews would be negative, in the same way I would assume most customer reviews of a bank would be negative. I also wondered whether the reviews would be beneficial beyond merely telling customers to stay away from certain budget airlines. I doubted that airlines would actually respond to the feedback.

But according to Bryan Saltzburg, the GM of TripAdvisor Flights, the airline ratings they’ve received so far have tended to skew positive, with an average rating of just under four on a scale of one to five.

He says that, “Carriers may find the new airline ratings quite useful as a way to get feedback from fliers on their offerings. We believe that, just like with hotels, the best airlines will be the ones who take into account traveler feedback, both positive and negative.”

While notoriously run by large, faceless corporations and associated with long lines at ticket counters, customer service in the airline industry is taking off in a better direction, with airlines like Virgin America leading the way. I can see TripAdvisor’s new rating system acting as a great way to create even more customer evangelists for the best airlines out there, but I wonder if other airlines notorious for crap customer service will really listen?

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