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Helpful Definitions

Focus Cities – Then there are what airlines call ‘focus cities’ – these cities aren’t hubs per se in that they don’t have over 100 flights leaving a day, but they do have a significant operation at said airport. For instance, while United might have a huge hub in San Francisco, they do also have a good amount of flights just down south at LAX – internationally they a good array (though not as good as SFO) of flights to Asia, and a good selection of flights across the US (though mostly on smaller, regional planes). The same can be said of Delta – Salt Lake City is a hub for the airline (though mostly domestic) – but Seattle is a city where Delta has a pretty big presence in, serving Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan from SEA.

 

Hubs – A hub is usually defined as a city where an airline (and its regional affiliates) has more than 100 departures a day – giving you a massive array of flight options and destinations to choose from. If you call Detroit home, you’d be best served with Delta with the sheer quantity of their operations there, whereas if you’re a San Francisco based person United is your best bet with both a huge domestic and international network out of SFO. Live in Miami? No other airline even compares to American and the route network they can offer you from there.

 

Skytrax – Let us give you some background behind the Skytrax rating you’ll see next to the airlines listed below. Skytrax are a company that’s equal measure beauty and equal measure beast.

While some airlines use them actively in their marketing, giving the organization legitimacy, a good number of frequent fliers and elites discount their reviews and awards with the notion that they are a glorified publicity agency and accolades can be bought for that very reason.

Skytrax had this to say about themselves, distancing themselves from the idea that they are biased or associated with any one airline:
Skytrax created the Air Travel review website (www.airlinequality.com) as an independent customer forum, which has become the leading review site for airline, airport and associated air travel traveller reviews. This website has no financial association or affiliation with any airline or airport featured.

The fact that they have to give that last bit as a disclaimer is a bit telling, don’t you think?

Regardless of their reputation at the end of the day they are the only real consistent airline rating agency that takes into account both travelers and expert reviews and puts them into their own rating system. The stars you see below are devised as such, per Skytrax:

Introduced in 1999, this is the leading international Airline Rating system classifying airlines by the Quality of front-line product and staff service standards. World Airline Star Ratings are recognised as a global Benchmark of airline standards, developed through many years of professional experience and Skytrax unique knowledge of the world airline industry.

So whilst imperfect, and trust us – we disagree with some of the star rankings displayed below – it’s a decent place to start. Think about it as if you’re reading the book jacket before actually opening the book.