Skytrax audits are a familiar concern for those who work in the aviation and airline industry. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many travelers have relied even more heavily on the ratings and insights the service offers to distinguish which airports and airlines will be safest.

What is Skytrax, how does auditing work, and how can teams most effectively prepare for a visit from a Skytrax inspector? We’re going to dive into these questions.

What is Skytrax?

Skytrax is a UK-based consulting firm that focuses on rating airlines, airports, and everything aviation-related. They audit and inspect commercial aviation facilities in order to assign each airline a rating. Ratings range from one to five stars.

What is the COVID-19 Safety Ratings Program?

Skytrax has implemented a COVID-19 Safety Ratings program, which provides independent validation of airline and airport COVID-19 hygiene and safety measures.

As part of this program, they are pioneering ATP testing within the commercial facilities inspections industry. These tests are more commonly used by some of our healthcare facilities customers because they are designed to measure the potential for spread of disease.

Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is an element in living cells. ATP measurements give an approximation for how much biological residue is on surface. The more biological residue, the higher the chances that residue includes harmful bacteria. The process helps quantify disinfection, which makes inspecting for the effectiveness of your cleaning more straightforward.

(Viruses are not living cells and do not contain ATP, but testing for ATP can still measure how clean a surface is.)

Should airports consider ATP testing too? While generally used in healthcare, the demand for quantitative measurements of high-ouch surfaces is increasing so this technology. We encourage facility teams to investigate and determine if it can fit within their overall process and budget, possibly supplementing traditional visual inspections. (After all, you can only improve what you measure.)

How Skytrax Auditing Works

Skytrax says that a “full airport audit” includes a review of up to 800 customer-facing areas of airport product and service within 30 different customer contact points. Each of these programs are based on detailed and professional investigation of actual standards provided by airlines and airports. 

The Skytrax ratings are designed to cover the complete customer experience from start to finish. Some of the areas they include in their final rating are:

  • Airport website
  • Wayfinding
  • Terminal design
  • Decor
  • Maintenance
  • Cleanliness
  • Passenger flows
  • Seating
  • Washrooms
  • Wi-Fi
  • Shopping 
  • Dining

Cleaning is a big focus of these audits. That’s because customers are increasingly concerned about industry best practices; they want to know whether businesses are really following through. Skytrax seeks to help deliver that insight.

How teams prepare for a Skytrax audit

Performing your own inspections of the line items and areas that Skytrax is likely to review can help you gauge your team’s readiness for an inspection.

A great example comes from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. When we spoke with Kim Payne, Aviation Department’s Service Delivery Assistant Manager, she shared this insight into how they prepared:

“When we found out that one of our airports was on Skytrax’ list of airports to investigate, we immediately dispatched a team of customer experience specialists to our major airports to ensure the airports’ terminals were compliant with all COVID-19 regulations as outlined by the elements the SkyTrax investigators were going to review.” 

Consulting services and advisory options

Consulting services through Skytrax or an independent third party help some teams prepare for their audits. Airlines cannot explicitly pay for a higher rating, but they can pay for consulting services directly from Skytrax. (Skytrax does have critics who point to these services as calling into question the firm’s independence as auditors.)

Similar to other industry bodies, like ISO, ISSA, APPA, etc. there are industry experts and consultants with expertise in Skytrax audits and process improvement. Matt Gornick, our CEO, recently spoke about the trend of engaging outside expertise in his presentation at the SourceAmerica conference. After all, why reinvent the wheel when you can engage with experts that can help guide you through improvements and provide unbiased feedback?

A fresh set of eyes can also uncover areas that customers do notice, which is also a benefit of customer experience inspections.

Why airports and airlines focus on improving Skytrax ratings

A good ranking from a third-party source gives airports and airlines an opportunity to market their services and facilities. Skytrax does not charge airlines for the use of their rating and the Skytrax logo in their marketing materials. Airlines and airports use their star rating extensively in their marketing, which means it is meaningful to them and does resonate with their customers. 

Skytrax also rarely removes a five-star rating from an airline once it has been awarded. Their ratings do not need to be won year after year, which further incentivizes airlines to achieve the five-star rating.  

The bottom line on Skytrax

Our aviation clients tend to take a proactive stance towards Skytrax assessments. Whether or not the firm is completely objective, Skytrax is valued by consumers, especially as travelers become more conscious of cleanliness while traveling. Therefore, aviation teams do their best to achieve a good rating from their inspectors.

In conclusion, if you have already been audited by Skytrax, capture the feedback and recommendations as a new QC inspection form as part of your process. If you are using a paper based process, consider digital tools like OrangeQC.

Ultimately Skytrax inspections are geared for “improving quality of the customer experience for airlines and airports across the world.” Review their audit criteria and envision your facilities through the traveler eye.


Looking to improve your quality control program? Learn more about how OrangeQC serves the airport and aviation industry, or schedule a demo to see our software in action.