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Context: I am not a frequent flier on long-distance flights. My first ~12h flights were in 2019, both with LOT airlines. Since I was a usual customer of low-cost carriers until then, I was used to their (lack of) standards, so I was positively surprised with the quality of service, especially in food/snacks/drinks quality and frequency. I was literally stuffed after the flight.

Fast-forward to 2023/2024 (after Covid) - I've flown with Emirates, Qatar, and Lufthansa (even premium economy) on 10h+ flights. Since both Emirates and Qatar are much higher-rated airlines than LOT, I expected much better service, but was severely disappointed. Especially on the Lufthansa flight two weeks ago - as for drinks, I got a bottle of water and a stewardess gave a "glass" of juice once + 2x during the meals. I asked about a drink with coke and they didn't have it. They made a pass with snacks once during a 12h flight. I expected a lot more from premium economy, though all I got was a bit more space (not sure if that's even true).

Question: Is there a fairly objective ranking of quality/standards of service of airlines that shows a downtrend since 2019/2022? Or they are usually normalized to the mean, so even if the absolute quality dropped, it's not visible? Or am I just getting older and expect too much?

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    Lufthansa cabin crew haven’t exactly been contented employees recently, might be relevant to your experience.
    – Traveller
    Apr 14 at 22:06
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    Bringing your own food is always the best solution, unless you're flying in business class on a long haul flight. I've yet to see an economy meal better than the $4 Taco Bell burritos I usually take on the plane :-)
    – JonathanReez
    Apr 15 at 1:35
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    On which airline(s) were you "literally stuffed after the flight"? Apr 15 at 6:27
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    Quality is dropping (as the prices), but that trend started long before COVID. I doubt no more offering water (e.g. on SAS) but coffee has something to do about COVID. Apr 15 at 9:35
  • @EndAnti-SemiticHate LOT airlines
    – Mr. M
    Apr 15 at 22:20

1 Answer 1

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Is there a fairly objective ranking of quality/standards of service of airlines

There are all kind of airline ranking sites with the most popular probably being Skytrax (https://www.worldairlineawards.com/worlds-top-100-airlines-2023/)

that shows a downtrend since 2019/2022?

Not really. The rankings typically compare different airlines for the same year but I don't think there is a numerical metric that allows year-on-year comparison for the same airline.

In my personal experience, quality of service varies a lot even with the same airline on the same route. It mostly depends on the specific set of flight attendants and the mood of the crew, which in turn can be impacted a lot by unknown factors on the ground.

Load factor matters too: A full flight is more work for the crew, there is less "extra stuff" to give out, there is always a line at the loo, and people jammed in middle seats tend to be more grumpy than someone in a window seat with no neighbor.

Another factor is aircraft configuration: For example 3-3-3 seating in Boeing 777 is quite comfortable whereas 3-4-3 seating is a miserable experience AND there are even more passengers on board. Grumpy passengers will contribute to a grumpy crew.

Service has certainly changed quite a bit throughout the pandemic: masking, reduced or no meal service, social distancing, modified boarding or deplaning procedures, etc. Some airlines are trying to hang on to some of these changes, simply because it's cheaper for them. However, in my experience it's mostly back to pre-Covid standards and personally I don't think there is much of a difference left.

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    I’ve also noticed a lot more variability in the amount of food loaded on planes; I’ve been on quite a few flights over the last few years where food ran out before the attendants got all the way through the plane (even on transatlantic flights), and some where there was no food at all (even on flights where food is sold rather than included in the base ticket price). What’s more surprising is that in many cases the attendants only discover what’s been loaded after the flight takes off and they start the on-board service! Apr 15 at 8:27
  • To add to Stephen's comment, it seems common on low-cost flights for them to have no food these days. Cutting down on excess food is an obvious way for all airlines to reduce costs, even if poorer service is provided (less choice or no choice at all) - although this creates problems if there's e.g. a significant delay before take-off. Even if people are paying for food, there can still be wastage and it might be more economic just to not carry anything rather than supply, transport, and sell a small amount.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 15 at 9:14
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    One more thing: in case of projected turbulence they will try to keep interactions short so every passenger will get basic care (enough food and drinks that they don't disrupt the flight). Stewards are safety officers who do catering on the side. Apr 15 at 9:59
  • For what it's worth, Skytrax ratings are widely regarded as worthless among frequent flyers and in the industry. They are regarded as being sold, due to their business model of selling advertising of the very airlines they purport to rate. While they may have a vague correlation to reality, I wouldn't really call them 'objective.'
    – reirab
    Apr 15 at 20:08

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