American Wins 5-Star Global Airline Award (Again)

Filed Under: American

There are some phenomena in the world that just can’t be explained. Jorts. Fanny packs. American Airlines being named a five star global airline.

American Won Five Star Award Last Year

In 2019 American Airlines was awarded five stars by APEX (the Airline Passenger Experience Association), which gives out these awards based on passenger feedback.

American Airlines was so proud of this that they put stickers on all of their planes next to the door noting how they’re a five star airline.

American Won A Five Star Award Again

The APEX 2020 awards just happened, and American Airlines once again picked up the same award. I love how they say that the rating is certified, validated, and verified.

How Was American’s Five Star Rating Determined?

Let me start by saying that I respect APEX as an organization, and this isn’t a case where I think American Airlines paid for an award.

The way APEX determines the winners is by getting feedback through a partnership with TripIt from Concur, a travel organizing app.

Using a five star scale, more than a million flights were rated by passengers across 600 airlines from around the globe between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019. The rating is based on seat comfort, cabin service, food and beverage, entertainment, and wifi.

American Airlines’ award winning inflight entertainment

So I’m going to take APEX at their word that these are legitimate reviews. I have more faith in this system than Skytrax, which bases their ratings on their “audits,” with virtually no transparency as to their methodology.

So the big question now is how passengers thought that the experience American offers is worthy of five stars?

American Airlines’ award winning food

How Can We Make Sense Of This?

I can’t make sense of these results in absolute terms, so maybe looking at them relatively will shed more light on these ratings?

APEX notes that a total of 35 airlines earned the five star award, including 20 global airlines, 13 major airlines, and two regional airlines.

Meanwhile a total of seven low cost airlines reached four star status, which APEX says is the highest rating that low cost carriers can get.

Allegiant scored the highest possible rating for a low cost carrier, as they were awarded four stars. Let me once again emphasize that these ratings are allegedly based on seat comfort, cabin service, food and beverage, entertainment, and wifi:

  • Allegiant doesn’t have have entertainment
  • Allegiant doesn’t have wifi
  • Allegiant has 30″ of pitch on their planes
  • Allegiant’s buy on board menu includes Oreo’s, Chex Mix, Goldfish, Welch’s Fruit Snacks, and other similar items

So yes, Allegiant is the highest possible rated low cost carriers across those metrics, and scored the same as Southwest. Similarly, American is the highest possible rated global airline across those metrics, and scored the same as Qatar. When you look at it that way, it sure makes a lot more sense.

It’s also worth noting that reviews for flights that were delayed weren’t included in the rankings. That’s because they didn’t want negative thoughts related to the delays to skew peoples’ impression of the experience. That sure is convenient for American, given their on-time performance.

I guess the takeaway here is that you just can’t trust any ratings nowadays, regardless of whether they’re part of an audit, or based on feedback from customers?

  1. The airlines clearly pay for this. It’s like the ads in the inflight magazines touting “Top Plastic Surgeons in America” containing a list of ten random doctors who clearly paid to be included in the list. American even has the audacity to put the sticker on their aircraft door areas to prepare passengers for an “unprecedented experience.” What a load of crap. Ranks right up there with “dynamic mileage pricing is good for customers”

    Really, this is snake oil salesman stuff and it’s astonishing that it is actually legal. Pay for inclusion ratings should be banned in any developed country.

  2. It’s a strange world we live in, where up is down and down is up.

    If APEX is a respectable organization, and American Airlines didn’t pay for the award (although Gary mentioned AA was an APEX Expo sponsor), how can we make sense of this? Aliens?

  3. Dig deeper. There is some connection between paid services and APEX. There is no way an independent evaluation of AA would even put them in the same category as Qatar, Cathay, etc. while they aren’t the worst they are not 5 star in any world. But some people highly rate the AA credit card which I value as the worst plastic out there. So opinions are subjective.

  4. one simple explanation. Putin is up to dirty tricks to harm the USA. Putin is why there’s so much fighting onlinr, especially about politics. I am not kidding. Putin probably ordered the five stars to American and the high Alligiant score.

  5. While I think APEX is more generous of giving nice rankings more than Skytrax, I still can’t wrap my head on how American got 5* rating while some nicer airlines like KLM and Thai only got 4* rating. There must be some “intervention” involved here

  6. Comparing AA and QR is not even a close comparison. I don’t see AA long haul business class coming close to QR, EK or Cathay in the next 10 yrs

  7. No I read that Qatar Airways was voted all in all the best airlines by customers,then Emirates but AA got what it derserved in terms of passenger choice that is nothing!
    Only the Passenger choice matters for me all the rest is bologne.


    Qatar Airways: Best Seat Comfort

    Emirates: Best Entertainment

    Qatar Airways: Best Cabin Service

    Delta Air Lines: Best Wi-Fi

    Qatar Airways: Best Food & Beverage

  8. Unexplained: Top Blogger publishes more “how bAAd they are” stories than any other topic, yet flies AA more than any other.


  9. This sounds like “J.D. Power” awards regularly granted to the absolute worst auto and telecommunications companies in the industry.

  10. I retract my comments about Putin. He is all powerful and I don’t want to tangle with him. He is peace loving and would never try to harm USA online. Please, Putin, don’t do anything. to me.

  11. These results make as much sense as do those of the Freddie Awards, like

    — Best Airline Elite Program: AAdvantage, when the program was already winning the race to the bottom, with cuts to elite benefits (e.g., number of SWUs).

    — Hotel Program of the Year: Marriott BONVoY. Yes, that same BONVoY!

    ‘Nuff said.

  12. American didn’t give employees positive space tickets for winning the APEX rating last year, and they won’t this year, either. Those passes were awarded for winning the unrelated ATW Airline of the Year award.

  13. I’ve stopped flying AA, disAAstrous !
    I will now avoid all AAPEX-rated airlines unless their reputation far exceeds theirs.
    AAPEX and SKYTRASH are from the Banana Republic Ministry of Information, not even the Soviets dared go that low ( considering their planes did pitch and crash a little more )

    @ Derek : so Putin has no time for you. Let alone read you twice.
    Plus if you knew, you’d fly Aeroflot anytime over any US meh airline, specially AA or AAllegiant ( ok, not the same destination, but I hope you get the point )

  14. I get it. I truly believe most of the people who voted never even tried (or heard of) the likes of Qatar, Emirates, Cathay… so they may have compared AA to other US airlines including low cost or just have much lower expectations than most of us on this blog… perhaps having landed at their destination safely, and getting a soft drink or two and some mini-pretzels can make some people satisfied enough to award 5*. Wish I was one of those… lol

  15. Clearly a Participation Award. You need to list the other 34 airlines that received honorable mentions for flights where nothing went wrong.

  16. Its like trusting and believing Wall street rating agencies S&P and Fitch with rating American Airlines with a AAA bond score

  17. I can’t stop laughing @ so called 5 Star Parker Airways.Can’t make this stuff up
    What are they saying is good? Even the partial list like
    The Denny’s buffet of massive variety of slop in their Flagship lounges?
    The horrible cramped bathrooms and coach seats able to cut off your circulation?
    The world crass on board service where they ration the amount out of each can of beverage they are allowed to pour.The off brand sub par snacks?
    The refusal to transport you bag to the final destination? AAttitude?
    The horrible expensive award availability and mile gouging redemption’s that they copied from the Delta program giving new meaning to the Me too movement
    Did I say American has disgusting food in their so called premium cabins?

    Perhaps a lifetime achievement award for stranding elite pax in airports overnight due to mechanical difficulties without a hotel and a voucher that doesn’t cover the cost of a sandwich and a beverage ? Has Mr Parker seen how comfortable the benches are in some of his hubs to spend the night?

    American sucks so bad it hurts being a lifetime Platinum.
    Its a disgrace and an embarrassment as you are treated like scum most of the time
    That’s why I am proud to say I am no longer flying them as I prefer not to be abused and happily spend with carriers that actually care the world over including Middle East airlines
    I don’t have to be ripped off at American

  18. I think it’s because they are just surveying average passengers. These people may not have experienced Cathay, Qatar, or even first class on a domestic carrier. Unlike Lucky, they have nothing better to compare it to.

  19. Ok, I get the criticisms and complaints. But let’s assume for a moment that this review was not bought and try to find some explanation, rather than just kvetching. If you hate American Airlines so much you don’t fly it, you won’t be one of the passengers asked to review it. (The same goes for any other Airline, like Allegiant) If you are in an international Traveler, particularly from another country, you probably won’t be flying American so you won’t review it. If you prefer American because it’s the most convenient Airline for you to use or because of frequent flyer miles or anything else, you’re less likely to be able to compare the experience with any other Airline. For example, although I occasionally fly internationally, so far it’s not been to any route covered by Qatar, so I haven’t had a chance to experience that Airline. And quite frankly although the 1st/business Class reviews sound incredible there’s no way I would be able to afford to pay for those, and I’m not really sure how much better the economy is. And of course many of the people who fly American or Allegiant have only flown within the United States, don’t follow travel blogs and commentaries on sites like this one, and have absolutely no idea what they should be comparing their experience with.

    I’m not saying that any of this makes American a great Airline, just thinking that the reviews are about as meaningless as to think that the majority of the people really did think about all the ramifications when they voted for President Trump or for Brexit. You don’t have to explain either through saying that the votes were bought.

  20. Or maybe we can’t trust full of themselves bloggers whose butts hurt because the airlines have rationalized their frequent flyers award programs, nor their amen corner equally butt hurt followers who think they know more about running a multi billion dollar corporation than the folks who are actually doing so. We all know that the complexity of running a blog is on par with running an airline with over 900 aircraft serving five continents. And get your facts straight. The award tickets American gave to their employees were not the result of putting stickers on their airplanes for having won the Apex awards. They were awarded as a thank you from the airline for having won Air Transport World’s airline of the year for 2017. There’s nothing worse than a full of himself butt hurt blogger who doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.

  21. This method is by no means scientific, but I regularly check the airlines’ app rating on App Store. As of today, on US app store, the big four domestic carriers, American, United, Southwest, Delta rank #8-#11 in travel category, so they have similar downloads. In terms of ratings, United has 4.7 stars, Southwest 4.8, Delta 4.8, and AA has… 2.5 (not due to a buggy update, it is consistently this low).

    Some other airlines, Frontier 4.7, JetBlue 4.9, Alaska 4.9, Allegiant 2.9, Spirit 1.5, Hawaiian 3.0.

    This can at least tell something.

  22. So Lucky,

    I take it that every American meal is like the one pictured. Correct?

    Seems like every flight you take with them is a total disaster. Not even one single positive experience you have ever had on an AA flight? is it that catastrophic?


  23. All folks who moan groan about AA being voted the best airline obviously forget that AA basically has the lowest miles requirement for upper classes award tickets without any surcharges among practically any airline, including Qatar or Emirates—both of which have totally numbers of miles needed for those kind of tickets… I guess all those complainers and AA haters have multi-million award accounts with AA and/or any other airlines, or they have very fat business travel expense accounts…Just a bunch of spoiled brats…

  24. Fake News. Just like the polls that showed Hillary winning in a landslide, even those done on election day itself. If you carefully select the people you poll, you can get whatever result you want.

    Right now CNN has a poll out asking if Trump should be reelected. 60% No, 30% Yes. How did they get that result? Simple, just poll 40% Democrats, 20% Green, Democratic Socialist, and other minor parties, 20% Independents, and 20% Republicans. And don’t ask only likely voters, poll everyone who is registered, despite that the fact that 50% of registered voters never get around to voting.

    Meanwhile, the Rasmussen Poll, which is always the most reliable poll for national elections,
    (they had Hillary at +2%, which on a National basis was spot on) has Trump’s positive rating at 48%. Because they only poll likely voters, and don’t skew their base towards Democrats and minority parties, they get an opposite result from CNN.

    So now ask yourself, if in the same way APEX didn’t poll people whose flights were delayed, they only polled people who have flown both AA and ME3 and/or Asian airlines, how different their results would have been. If you are a hub captive who has only flown AA, and know it’s the largest airline in the world, you assume it must be a 5 Star airline, right?

  25. You are definitely an American Airlines hater so maybe your opinion is a bit skewed? If one million people give it a five star rating do you think there is a possibility they deserve it. I’ve been flying AA for 40 years and love it. And no I wasn’t one of the million people polled.

  26. I’m a UK based frequent flyer, and have been flying American a lot in First and Business, and I think they’re brilliant. Perhaps it’s just the A321 from NYC to LAX/SFO, but on these services, I can’t really fault them. Whereas I flew Delta One from LAX to DCA the other day, an airline and service favoured by this blog (which I love btw) and it was truly shockingly bad. Hmm.

  27. Lollllllllllllll

    I am on the ground guys. I mean this is FUNNNNN
    The way you presented the inflight entertainment and meal says it all about the American 5* experience. Has any of the APEX guys actually flown American??
    Money speaks

  28. Let’s not be naive, of course it has to do with money!

    I owned a company several years ago and it was big enough JD Power company contacted us to get certified as a JD Power approved company. They do expect your company to meet standards but they help you with that. Why? You don’t fork out $150k for nothing!

    Apex, I’m sure is similar! Take this award with a grain of salt. By the way, there are that many 5 star airlines? LOL

  29. Wait a second, if they don’t include ratings pertaining to flights that are delAAyed, my votes don’t count. Nine of my last 10 itineraries on this totally unreliable airline have had significant delAAys or canceled flights.

  30. @Robert Hanson — “If you carefully select the people you poll, you can get whatever result you want.”

    Exactly right! In fact, wasn’t there a saying in the statistics profession that goes “… let me control the sampling and I’ll give you whatever result you desire”?
    This same trick can be used within the global movement perpetrating the Greatest Hoax upon Mankind with Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), as well, where they tout that 97% of scientists insist that Man is THE cause of Global Warming (or Climate Change, as they must now modify), so therefore the “Science” *must* be settled … Period!

    However, let’s say that there are 1000 “scientists” in a room and 100 of them actually believe that Man is *the* culprit. This pro-Anthropogenic group does a survey of 100 “scientists” out of 1000 in the room (10% sampling size — statistically significant!). But this group surveys 97 from their own group and 3 from outside of their group — there you go! They got 97/100 (97%) of sampled “scientists” to actually (mis)represent the group of 1000 “scientists” as being pro-Anthropogenic, while disenfranchising the other 900 in the same group from having their views considered, since they got intentionally *suppressed*! The sampling was never at all “randomized”! To all of these agencies, their End always justifies their Means!

    Therefore, APEX does *not* represent one’s total travel experiences, through their extremely limited sampling of only “seat comfort, cabin service, food and beverage, entertainment, and wifi”, while totally ignoring other relevant experiences with flight delays, baggage (mis)handling, passenger special needs (mis)accomodations, quality of VIP lounges, etc, etc, etc!

  31. The JD Power airline surveys show up pretty regularly at e-rewards and other miles-for-surveys sites and do ask for a good number of details about your recent travel. As someone who does a good number of surveys for miles, I do have to say those JD Power ones seem to be unbiased and not pushing me toward a specific answer for a question, unlike some other surveys that show up on those kinds of sites.

  32. Is someone scripting a new sitcom? Because I did find it funny that anyone could name AA a 5* airline. What a joke.

  33. I eager await the story of Doug Parker playing golf with Kim Jong Il and, like Dear Leader, shooting a 38 for 18 holes.

  34. *sam — “All folks who moan groan about AA being voted the best airline obviously forget that AA basically has the lowest miles requirement for upper classes ”

    Really? Flight to SYD business class 375,000! That’s HUGE!

  35. As indicated in this article, APEX left out important information such as Flight Delays, so this award for American Airlines is a clearly a fraud, and should be disqualified

  36. I wonder if American had compromising photos of the APEX CEO with Jeffrey Epstein and his underage groupies

    In the words of John McEnroe
    “You cannot be serious”

  37. @Oursland, that is precisely the reason. The methodology is sort of explained in the link. It is based on those Tripit surveys you get (if you use that service) after a flight. If you don’t use Tripit, you don’t vote. But they excluded the votes made by passengers on flights that were delayed, figuring that this would dampen the enthusiasm of passengers. Of course tossing out those votes is a massive boost to AA, since they don’t run on time flights. I almost always vote AA low, but my votes get booted since I’m arriving at 3 a.m. somewhere after seven delAAys.

  38. Airline ticket purchaser BEWARE ! You have been Warned. APEX and SKYTRAX star award system has been calculated and published by an award team of reviewers who supposedly tabulate votes from the general public, however be informed that all of the review team sadly suffer from the same medical condition, and that is DYSLEXIA , along with a possible dose of under the table offerings from most airlines that mysteriously get 4 and 5 stars.

  39. “Let me start by saying that I respect APEX as an organization, and this isn’t a case where I think American Airlines paid for an award”…

    You should be careful of sentences like these, Lucky. They could make you lose all respect, credibility and readership with some. Am I there (yet)? No. Is this a warning shot ? Yes.

  40. Like everything else, it’s payola. You want to be one of New York Magazine’s 100 smartest New Yorkers? Pay a press agent.

  41. In reply to Pierre”s comment……. giving Lucky a warning about critiques of APEX, let me just say that surveys and their results are measured by percentages and percentages can be played with just as statistics are. Therefore for APEX and SKYTRAX to award their by and large meaningless & ridiculous ” Stars” one has to acknowledge that the likes of EgyptAir or IranAir or Nigerian Airways etc etc , could also achieve a 5 star ranking based on unverified , non genuine passengers responses in relation to passengers flown on a percentile calculation. TRANSLATION = its all a numbers game with meaningless “stars” awarded for a gullible public. Shame APEX and SKYTRAK. But, hey, money talks and advertising revenue has a loud sound…….

  42. I know it’s been said probably 100 times above, but yet I am compelled to repeat it: what is APEX smoking? How much did AA pay for per star?

    AA getting 5 stars from these hacks is as much of a joke as a Hardees in Logansport, Indiana getting 5 stars from Michelin! They can not be serious. AA is an incredibly flawed airline at this point in time. Their scheduling is a mess, their on-time performance is a joke and their customer service is atrocious. In fact, I saw that these clowns gave AA 5 stars, yet UA only got 4. Not that United is so awesome, but yet I am actually insulted on United’s behalf! Having flown both of them quite a bit over the past several years, there’s absolutely no contest here – UA is the far superior operation.

    I can come to no other conclusion than that APEX is a pay for play operation that lacks any objectivity whatsoever. What a friggin joke.

  43. I have had incredible experiences with American for decades. Once, when trapped due to a wildcat strike by another airline, American accepted my ticket and got me home. While using free Aadvantage tickets to Croatia (snagged by taking a long layover in Boston), American called me the day before departure telling me two tickets had freed up on a direct flight and they were holding them for me if I wanted them (I did). When air traffic controllers had a Stoke in Spain, American put me up in the Paris Hilton for day for free (with food.
    And wine!) and escorted me through the inefficient hell that is DeGaulle airport to make sure I got my flight. But best of all, after hoarding frequent flier points for years for a trip of a lifetime to Australia, I found I couldn’t get flights. American’s agent spent 90 minutes on the phone, literally pulling out a map of Asia, until she found the connections to get my family there. And this was for free tickets! Whereas, when traveling with other airlines, they’ve actually asked me if my mentally disabled family member was dangerous. American is tops in my book.

  44. Response to CAIT McLAIM. You wrote ” Because of a “Stoke” in Spain”…….. whatever that is !! You received from American Airlines a free room at the Paris Hilton, and free foord and wine?? Either you are paid by AA to write ridiculous things or you are living on another planet etc etc. In any case I am now unsubscribing from this blog as it is totally unreliable and read by a lot of peolple like Cait McLaim that I want nothing to do with.

  45. APEX are the joke of the Airline industry. Their CEO claims these are trusted, verified, validated etc…who is he kidding? APEX, or “Joe Leader” clearly awards AA a 5 star rating because he knows they will promote it (and him)! For him to suggest getting results data independently “audited” makes these more trustworthy is just insulting. How can anyone prove APEX have not manipulated all results data prior to getting it “audited”!?

  46. The passengers who gave American 5 star status could have only flown Global Ghana Airlines so they have incredibly low standards

  47. @Tobert Hanson
    What on Earth are you babbling about? How is any of your tirade remotely relevant here? Bizarre.

  48. @EBWaa — “What on Earth are you babbling about? How is any of your tirade remotely relevant here?”

    I think that he was illustrating the fallacies of survey methodologies, based on how they’re conducted …

  49. Oh, please. It was clearly an excuse for a political rant. It’s quite obvious from his deranged posts here that he can’t help himself.

  50. @EBWaa — “It was clearly an excuse for a political rant. It’s quite obvious from his deranged posts here that he can’t help himself.”

    Well … you can dislike his choice of an example, but I think that his points about statistical “gaming” within surveys is still accurate and valid!

  51. I would believe APEX any day than skytrax or should I Say SCAMtrax as in their top 100 Airlines Air Asia which is an LCC is rated above Etihad,Vistara,Virgin Atlantic,Air France etc which is totally unbelievable.

    Heck I would take AA as a 5 Star airline any day over Air Asia which is the worst airline in the world.

  52. @Anx — “I would believe APEX any day than skytrax or should I Say SCAMtrax …”

    So have you actually researched their survey methodology to arrive at their ranking results? Skytrax, itself, does NOT assign the ratings — those are the result of all the travelers who VOTE … as such, the voting results CAN be skewed by those who choose to participate! Thus, if sufficient passengers on Air Asia vote their satisfaction with that airline, then it gets ranked accordingly! I don’t know WHY you think that such a methodology constitutes a “SCAM”?

    www[.]worldairlineawards[.]com/awards-methodology/ <== remove the [ ] around the "."

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