Zagat Rates Airlines, Raises Questions About Itself

Posted November 26, 2008 by Nicki Krawczyk

Laughterapplause_2 There’s a sacrosanct level of trust with rating agencies and critics that has to exist in order for them to be useful. We trusted that Siskel & Ebert actually watched the movies before they recommended them. We trust that Consumer Reports actually does crash lots and lots of cars into brick walls at 40 mph and so, we believe the subsequent evaluations. When Wall Street rating agencies give a mortgage-backed security a AAA rating … oh, didn’t see that one coming, did you? Uh-huh, because we trusted them.

Now, before I make my full accusation, here’s the backstory: Zagat, the company most famous for offering ratings and reviews of hotels, restaurants, and other enjoyable pastimes, recently posted the results of an airline survey. You’ll see several old favorites among them: JetBlue got Best Large Domestic Airlines (Economy Seating), Midwest Airlines got Best Midsized Domestic Airlines (Economy Seating), Southwest got best Value for the Money (Domestic) and so on.

Nothing really fishy here, right? No one’s going to question that Virgin Atlantic could have been rated the Best In-Flight Entertainment (International) or that Singapore Airlines is the Best International Airlines (Premium and Economy Seating). The problem, dear readers, arises when we look to their "Outtakes" page, where they’ve compiled some of the best respondents’ quotes. These include snappy zingers like "You get what you pay for—in other words, you don't get it if you don't pay extra for it!" and "Oh, for the good old days when we had food to complain about," not to mention "Like the Flintstones, their planes are a page right out of history, and their service is bedrock."

Wait a minute … I’ve seen Leno. I’ve seen Letterman. But I’ve also talked to the Man on the Street, and he didn't sound this clever at all! These quotes don’t sound like they came from Joe the Plumber, Betsy Smith the Middle Manager, or even Carter Bushnell, Esq. the Oil Conglomerate Executive. No, they sound much more like they came from Henny Youngman, the King of the One-Liners! J’accuse! Zagat, in an effort to boost its readership and entertainment value, has clearly replaced its independent lay-commentators with a carefully-chosen crew of moxie-rich stand-up comedians! Who else would say things like, "The only thing older than the planes are the flight attendants"?

As for Zagat, they have no response to this accusation. Because I haven’t called them. (Why should I have to do all the work?) But I urge you to investigate further for yourself. Comb through their archives. Read their reviews. Does Continental really offer the Best Value for the Money (International) or is it merely some set-up for a cleverly quipped joke? It’s a tough world out there, kids, when you’ve got to take even Zagat with a grain of salt.


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