Thursday, March 15, 2007

What is the Tipping Point for travel reviews?

There is a press release knocking about today which is worth a mention, really as part of a wider debate about online reviews of travel products.

Consumer opinion site has named as “Best Airline”, according to users of its travel product section.

The site aggregates reviews to give an overall score and also asks consumers to rate areas of a business such as value-for-money, customer service and punctuality.

So we decided to take a look.’s new honour has been bestowed on it from just 21 reviews on the site, handing it a worthy overall rating of 90%.

But look at Thomas Cook, which had a similar number of reviews (23), but managed a far less impressive overall score with 52%.

The same goes for ThomsonFly (25 reviews and a paltry 28%).

The point here is that when – if there is one – is the so-called Tipping Point for online reviews.

  • What constitutes a robust and accurate indicator of a product’s performance in terms of the number of reviews?
  • Do consumers have an in-built mechanism whereby they start to believe an overall rating of a travel product but only after, say, 50 people have a reviewed it?
  • Would people believe is a better airline than BA (50% in this case) because it has a higher rating despite only having 20-odd people review it?
Here is the list of "Top Airlines" on, with the number of reviews and overall rating:

American Airlines – 36 reviews – 25%
British Airways – 84 reviews – 50%
BMI – 19 reviews – 68%
Britannia Airways – 11 reviews – 55%
British Midland – 5 reviews – 40%
Continental – 15 reviews – 67%
EasyJet – 64 reviews – 55%
Emirates – 37 reviews – 35%
Iberia Airlines – 57 reviews – 19% – 21 reviews – 90%
KLM – 30 reviews – 40%
Monarch – 51 reviews – 39%
MyTravel – 63 reviews – 43%
Ryanair – 63 reviews – 48%
Singapore Airlines – 11 reviews – 55%
Thomas Cook – 23 reviews – 52%
ThomsonFly – 25 reviews – 28%
United Airlines – 47 reviews – 32%
US Airways – 17 reviews – 18%
Virgin Atlantic Airways – 77 reviews – 56%

Eagle-eyed readers will remember BMI and British Midland are, in fact, one and the same, as well as Britannia Airways and

Kevin May, editor, Travolution


acwo said...

Interesting blog, I like it :)
keep it up!

mlf said...

I think users are more inclined to believe hotel reviews even if they are written by just a handful of people. But for a brand, like an airline, they would rather believe the overall opinion of a large group of reviewers.

Certainly not 21 for one airline!

Joe Buhler said...

This post raises a valid point about the wisdom of crowds. In most cases it will take more than just a handful of reviews to make them credible. Of course, it should be considered that many professional research results are based on limited sample sizes, as long as they are representative of a larger market that works. Let's also remember that in media reviews the viewpoint of one person - although a professional reviewer - is often given total credibility. It's probably to early to give a correct answer to this but as the number of reviewers grows the evaluations will become better too.