Travel has never been easier. That's the good news.

The bad news? The travel industry is compromising quality.

What is SkyCARD ONE?

Over the past several years, travel has become much more accessible to the average person than it was before. You would think that due to the influx of new travelers, the travel industry would increase its standards to cater to the new crowd that is helping its bottom line. Unfortunately, that is only the case for a few companies. The majority of companies have actively diminished the quality of their offerings, creating a wider gap between their premium and lower-end services.

Now, that’s not to say that there’s not a place for creating tiered products based on price point – companies from all industries do this successfully to cater to newer clientele to expand their base. This also helps consumers as they now have access to certain experiences that they didn’t have before. However, it is now almost accepted practice in the travel industry to actually replace lower-end products with “innovations” which are actually inferior in quality than the previous product, disguised with fancy new branding.

At SkyCARD ONE, we aim to restore integrity and transparency in the travel industry. Our expert reviews will help you better understand the pros and cons of selecting a certain travel product (airline class, hotel room, travel rewards credit card) and whether or not it’s a good fit for you. In addition, to empower you to require a higher standard of service, we allow you to create an account where you can record all of your travel experiences, create your own SkyCARDs, and connect with a like-minded community.

We are currently under development, but in order to receive updates on the progress of SkyCARD ONE, feel free to sign up for our newsletter!

What is a SkyCARD? Trips, Criteria, and Formula

You might now be wondering what is a SkyCARD and how do we determine a travel product’s rating? Pretend we’re back in grade school, except you’re the teacher and the airlines, hotels, and credit card companies are the students. You follow a set of ten criteria and give them a rating from 0-10. Then, you sum them together and come up with a star rating from 1-5, based on the scale at the bottom of this page. You give these ratings after each trip you take having used that product. You can document your trip in your trips journal where you can provide the rating of the product. If you rate a product multiple times, your overall SkyCARD is the average of your ratings. Your ratings then combine with the collective ratings of all other users of SkyCARD ONE, which you can compare with expert ratings.

NOTE: During the rating process, if one of the criterion does not apply to your trip, you have an option to enter “N/A”. This will treat that section as null and void and those points will not count. For example, if you are evaluating an airline but have two criteria that do not apply, your final rating will be out of 80 instead of 100, and that will be converted into a percentage to calculate the SkyCARD.

Airline Criteria

  1. Customer Service – As one of the most important aspects of flying, the quality of customer service you receive is a large determinant of your flying experience. Customer service ranges all the way from your experience on the phone, at the check-in counter, and from flight attendants.
  2. Value for Money – We’ve seen a trend downward in airfare, driven primarily due to the increase in low-cost carriers. However, we must make sure that we are still getting our money’s worth when traveling, whether on a legacy carrier or a budget airline.
  3. Quality of On-board Offerings – This is everything from the food to drinks on the airline, whether complimentary or not. 
  4. Quality of Premium Products – This doesn’t necessarily only include premium cabins. While they definitely fall into this category, this can include anything that you have to pay extra for.
  5. Lounge Quality – Lounges are some of the most coveted parts of air travel. It’s a place to relax and get ready for your flight ahead. Therefore, it’s crucial that these lounges are kept to a high standard.
  6. Frequent Flyer Program – Now one of the biggest reasons for choosing a carrier, a solid frequent flyer program is one of the most important attributes for airlines to gain repeat business. This also includes how flexible redemption is, how easy it is to earn points, and the quality of credit card offerings.
  7. Fleet Condition – The number one priority of all airlines is and has always been safety. This applies to both the exterior and interior of the aircraft. An airline’s fleet should be in the best condition it can be even if it is an older aircraft.
  8. Hidden Fees – We understand this one may be unfair to low-cost carriers since they rely mostly on fees to turn a profit with their unbundled fares. However, this criterion is not about the mere presence of fees, but instead the extent that the airline goes to hide fees and then surprise you with them later, and whether or not these fares are reasonable.
  9. Check-in Process – If the check-in process is complicated and full of hoops to jump through, imagine what the boarding and flying experience will be.
  10. Innovation and Public Relations – Are both this airline and its employees going the extra mile to innovate to improve your experience both in the friendly skies and on the ground? Are they looking to improve the condition of the world around them and have a mission other than taking passengers from Point A to Point B?

Hotel Criteria

  1. Customer Service – At a hotel, you are a valued guest, and should therefore be treated as such. That includes by housekeeping, the front desk, and corporate call centers.
  2. Value for Money – Hotels have been getting more and more expensive, and you want to make sure that you get your bang for your buck.
  3. Quality of Amenities – This is everything from the amenity kits to the hotel going the extra mile to make sure you have a great stay, whether complimentary or not. 
  4. Quality of Premium Products – This doesn’t necessarily only include premium rooms such as suites. While they definitely fall into this category, this can include anything that you have to pay extra for, including the restaurant.
  5. Breakfast Quality – Continental breakfasts, whether included in your stay or not, are a staple of hotel stays. Therefore, they must be held to the highest standard so that you can start your day refreshed. This rating also includes the breakfast.
  6. Loyalty Program – Loyalty programs are one of the top ways to earn hotel stays. As mentioned, hotels are becoming more and more expensive. At the same time, hotels are facing competition from companies like AirBnb. Therefore, it’s in their best interest to create a compelling loyalty program. This also includes how flexible redemption is, how easy it is to earn points, and the quality of credit card offerings.
  7. Room/Facilities Condition – While not all hotels can afford to keep their properties ultra-modern, they should also pay heed to the appearance of the building. The buildings should be reasonably modern and not look like they are falling apart.
  8. Hidden Fees – Simply put: nobody likes to walk down to the desk upon check out to find out that they have a hefty bill left to pay.
  9. Concierge Availability – The concierge at the hotel should be available and give you quality recommendations based on your interests, as well as be knowledgeable about your destination.
  10. Innovation and Public Relations – Are both the hotel’s parent group and its employees going the extra mile to innovate to improve your experience during your stays? Are they looking to improve the condition of the world around them and have a mission other than housing guests?

Credit Card Criteria

  1. Customer Service – If you hold a travel credit card, you are more than likely a holder of one of the bank’s top-tier credit cards. Therefore, they should treat you as a top-tier customer, nothing less.
  2. Value for Money – Is the annual fee worth it? Think of all of the benefits and rewards that the card offers, and come up with a calculation on whether or not that card is worth the annual fee.
  3. Quality of Benefits – All travel cards come with benefits. Depending on the card and how much its annual fee is, some come with more benefits than others. However, we’re more concerned about how relevant these benefits are and the quality of the offering.
  4. Earning Categories – Ideally, earning rewards on these cards should be straightforward and lucrative. The bank shouldn’t have to make you jump through hoops.
  5. Spending Bonus – Most, if not all, cards nowadays come with a spending bonus. Some spending bonuses are lucrative, others are not even worth it.
  6. Redemption Options – The ideal travel credit card has several ways to redeem your rewards. The only ones that don’t fall under this category are airline/hotel co-branded credit cards.
  7. Non-Credit Related Application Restrictions – Naturally, banks have to be wary to whom they lend credit. However, some banks will artificially restrict potential cardholders from acquiring that card for the sole purpose of restricting circulation of that card.
  8. Hidden Fees – Many banks can be discreet about fees they charge. They should be upfront and open with these. It goes without saying that travel credit cards should have no foreign transaction fees.
  9. Ease of Travel – The card should be easy to use abroad in terms of acceptance and not having any foreign transaction fees.
  10. Innovation and Public Relations – Is this credit card truly innovative in its offerings? Did the bank get creative when drafting this card up? Is the bank looking to improve the condition of the world around them and have a mission instead of simply collecting debts?

SkyCARD Scale (% or out of 100)

90-100

80-89

70-79

60-69

< 59

© 2018 The Lost Geographer LLC