It’s time to start calling out the mainstream media on fake upgrade and premium cabin stories.
Several days ago a friend at United Airlines forwarded me an internal communication heralding the high ranking of United Polaris from Harper’s Bazaar. I laughed out loud. According to Harper’s the top 1o business class products include:
- United Airlines (Polaris)
- Finnair (A350)
- Delta Air Lines (Delta One Suites)
- Turkish Airlines
- TAP Portugal
- Air France
- South African Airways
- Norwegian (Premium Class)
This list just boggles my mind. For someone who reviews business class products for a living, I find it a laughably ignorant list.
How about ANA, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, EVA, JAL, Qatar or Singapore? Surely there is room for debate, but not a single Asian carrier appeared on the list. It is simply not a reasonable list by any objective measurement.
I filed the story in my trash can and moved on.
But yesterday United tweeted about it–
— United Airlines (@united) February 28, 2018
One Mile at a Time promptly covered it, giving the story the due scorn it deserved.
And perhaps that is the best way to deal with these stories. Because it’s not just that the list seemed arbitrary…and dare I say driven by ad revenue or some other concern than the truth. The main problem was the mistruths in the story.
For example, in discussing United Polaris–
United Airlines has rolled out a fantastic new business class experience on all intercontinental flights called Polaris. On these flights, the central focus of booking business class is sleep. If you’re traveling on an overnight flight, you can expect a completely lie-flat bed that can fit even the tallest of the bunch, at 6 feet, 6 inches in length.
Only that’s simply not true. United has rolled out its new Polaris seat on just a handful of routes. The vast majority of the fleet still features the old business class seats.
How about Finnair, one of my favorite airlines?
Leave it to Finland to design one of the most visually stunning business class experiences in the world (and the clouds). Flying from one of the airline’s U.S. gateways like New York, Chicago or Miami gives you an opportunity to sit-back and enjoy the large cabin of the Airbus A350 XWB, which delivers you to your destination flawlessly–without feeling like you’ve been on an airplane for hours.
Small problem. Finnair does not fly the A350 to/from the USA. But I do concede it is a beautiful aircraft.
One more. Air France.
Seats aboard Air France’s business class are lay-flat for even the tallest of passengers–they stretch to six feet and five inches long.
I wish that were true and the new business class seats abroad the 787-9 and 777-3ooER look great. But many Air France planes, including the flagship A380, do not have true lie-flat beds in business class. Instead, Air France uses “angle-flat” seats that slope downward in the fully-reclined position.
There were further examples, but you get the point.
The author, has a nice website. He claims to travel over 200,000 miles per year and has visited more than 80 countries. But his advice is sloppy and his experience too narrow, it seems to me, to offer accurate advice.
And then there’s the issue of comps. Airlines and hotels love to comp. In fact, that’s why many turn to blogging. And since disclosure rules are a bit murky, we often never know what was free, what an author paid for, or what an author was paid to write. Like in this case.
My blog is built upon honest, reliable, fair, and consistent reviews and analysis. I will take “media trips” once in awhile, but that is the exception and not the norm. When I do take them, they are clearly disclosed…like my Singapore trip on United. And as you well know, I had already published dozens of fair, sometimes scathing, United reviews before the flight and that impartiality has continued after.
I would hope that more mainstream media outlets would hold their writers to similar standards. The recent upgrade article in Bloomberg and now this story indicate an opening for talented writers who actually know what they are talking about.
While poorly-researched stories riddled with mistruths are nothing new, I’ll do my part in my small niche of the travel world to #keepthemhonest.