World’s five-star airline?

Something’s been bugging me about Qatar Airways.

If you’ve ever watched any of the global English-language rolling news channels – chiefly CNN International, BBC World News or Sky News (all of which keep me company in hotel rooms around the world) – you couldn’t fail to have seen an ad or a sponsor’s message from Qatar Airways, generally playing on how luxurious their onboard service is. They’ve cornered the market in sponsoring the Sky and BBC weather forecasts, which are now topped and tailed with cute little five-second Qatar Airways clips talking about how “Tonight, we expect to see inky clouds of real Arabica coffee brewing over the Middle East” (or whatever).

qatarairwaysAll their ads end with this grotesquely offensive close-up of a female steward’s right eye, as she beams in delight and her pupil dilates with the sheer sexual thrill of anticipating being able to serve you real Arabica coffee.

That image comes directly from the Qatar Airways website. If you look closely, the tagline reads “The world’s 5-star airline”. But if you play the clip, the voiceover (and the closing image) read “World’s 5-star airline.” They’ve dropped the “The”.

The same thing is repeated throughout this page, which announced the campaign. All the original poster ads say “The” – but now, none of them does. The TV campaign features the same voiceover as when it launched, but now spoken by a different actor: at some point late last year they withdrew the original ads that used “The” and re-recorded them. Why? I don’t know.

Did someone sue them for making false claims? Is a statement such as “The world’s 5-star airline” actionable? I have no idea. But if you think about it, “World’s five-star airline” (which is now the default tagline for the global campaign) is meaningless. There is no such place as “World”. Once you notice it, the ads studiously avoid saying “The world”.

I wonder why.

And is it only me who’s noticed?


  1. Alastair McKenzie

    “as she beams in delight and her pupil dilates with the sheer sexual thrill of anticipating being able to serve you real Arabica coffee.”

    Um…. are you getting out enough, Matthew?


    1. Matthew Teller

      Is that an offer, Alastair? πŸ˜‰

  2. buck

    Living in Doha, I fly them a lot. They may be a 5-star airline, but I have yet to determine out of how may. I’m guessing 15 or 20…


  3. TT

    That entire ad campaign can be decribed this way: Probably the worst aviation advertising ever! That eye-shot is just plain creepy.

    Check out Korean Air’s Excellence in Flight. They know how to make a decent airline advert.


  4. Matthew Teller

    Thanks for your comments, @buck and @TT (agree about the creepiness!) – but I’m still none the wiser about why they dropped the “The” from their ads… Anyone any ideas?

  5. Logan

    No, it’s not just you. I noticed this on Sky a while back, and have searched for answers a couple of times. I’m still none the wiser, though. I don’t understand it at all, since it simply seems slightly illiterate now.

  6. Matthew Teller

    Thanks, Logan. But I have now – finally – cracked it. Take a look at this news story:

    Skytrax is a consultancy firm who have invented the frankly meaningless concept of star-ratings for airlines – and the world has bought into it. The Skytrax page for “5-star airlines”:
    lists six carriers: Asiana, Cathay Pacific, Kingfisher, Malaysia, Qatar and Singapore.

    This means that Qatar’s previous ad campaign, based on the utterly spurious notion of being “The world’s five-star airline”, clashed with the Skytrax rating system, since there were five others who qualified for that title. Maybe Qatar’s creative campaign team had never heard of Skytrax when they designed the original ads – or perhaps Skytrax awarded five-star status to the others after Qatar’s ads had aired. Who knows? Or cares?

    But it is the lack of exclusivity on Skytrax’s five-star page which means that Qatar had to change their ads. But rather than design a whole new campaign, they just dropped the word “the”, reckoning (rightly) that virtually nobody would notice. They are now just one “five-star airline” among six. Diddums.

  7. Gary Arndt

    What they fail to mention is that it is based on a 10 star scale.

  8. Matthew Teller

    Nice one, Gary.

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