My best and worst airlines of 2011 [Updated]

Okay, time for my annual review of airlines to see who I give top and bottom billing to. I rate every airline on every flight i fly vis a vis their offerrings from booking to landing. On my rating scale 5 out of 5 is an almost perfect travel experience. Any airline with:

  • 4.7 or more out of 5 is Superb
  •  4.4+ Excellent
  • 4.1+ Good
  • 3.5+ Average
  • 3+ Below Average
  • Under 3.0 Poor

Superb and Excellent List

  1. Emirates once again scooped the pool for me with 5.0 out of 5.0 Consistently good service, food, entertainment, safety means I trust. Disappointed in 2011 that they did not recognise and match my Qantas frequent flyer status
  2. Air New Zealand at 4.9 out of 5. This is an airline that is always a joy to fly. Amazing customer service, great food and wine and so many innovative attempts to make flying fun.
  3. V Australia – now rolled into Virgin Australia plys the International routes. In all three classes, the V product is excellent earning then an average 4.8 out of 5.
  4. Qantas Airways -still came in with 4.8 out of 5. There has been a lot of talk about a decline in Qantas service. On board, I still find the Qantas customer service focus to be there. I cannot say the same with upper management and the disgraceful grounding incident earlier in the year, almost had me remove Qantas from this list.
  5. Cathay Pacific- still one of the best in the world though their service has become less consistent recently, their seats are not very comfortable (and are being replaced) and I had a run in over their online booking system in 2010…still get 4.7 out of 5 from me
  6. LAN (about to merge with TAM) gives many carries a run for their money with service, cleanliness, food and entertainment.  4.7 out of 5
  7. Lufthansa  My 2011 Lufthansa experience was very disappointing but overall I still give the German carrier 4.7 out of 5
  8. JetBlue- for me, this low cost carrier has never compromised  servcie, courtesy or on board offerings. There are horror stories of  a grounding in the snowstorms a few years ago which I believe JetBlue learnt from: 4.7
  9. Virgin America- the carriemr doesnt make any money but manages to fly customers around in amazing aeroplanes with great service and and an amazing eneternment system. A light in the dark US domestic scene: 4.7
  10. Singapore Airlines- othe rpeople rave about Singapore and place them higher. I am satisfied with my 4.6 scoring.
  11. Frontier- another low cost carrier makes it into the top ten list. Whether its the free on board chocolate chip cookie, groovy planes, or warm mid west hospitality, Frontier always delivers.
Out of my favourite airlines, three are One World,  three are Star Alliance, two are Virgin linked, three are unaligned and none are Skyteam
My Least Favourite airlines
  1. Tiger Airways Australia – my last flight with them was a non event. Arriving 42 minutes before the flight, I found that check in had closed (they have a 45 minute check in cut off and didn’t offer online check in). They had no interest in accommodating two marginally late passengers insisting we buy new tickets. Coupled with their grounding in Australia last year and crappy on board project, Tiger comes  in for me with 1.5 out of 5 which I wonder if it is too generous?
  2. Alitalia- enough said with 1.5 out fo 5
  3. Ryan Air sits next. Their cheap fares attract but their legendary lack of care for customers, desire for revenue at all other costs earns admiration as a business model but one wonders if its really sustainable long term or will people continue to fly to save a few Euros, pounds or dollars even treated worse than cattle? (2 out of 5)
  4. American Airlines. Grumpy service, aged planes and their  built in online ticketing rip off for Australian kept American in the list of worst carriers I have flown. Will bankruptcy improve them? (2.9 out fo 5)
  5. US Airlines-How many airlines cancel a flight and invite you to drive  193 miles [310km] for an alternative flight. My US air flights were marginally better this year than my overall experience with them over years. (2.9 out fo 5)
Worthy of Comment
  1. I have rated Air Asia at 3 out of 5 but think its time I revised this as people around me rave about them
  2. United Airlines- my question in the United/Continental merger is will the Continental part raise the overall standards of United.  Pre merger, I gave United 3.5 out of 5 and Continental 4.7. For my nine 2011 United flights in 2011, I gave the new carrier an average of 3.7 out of 5. This means United is no longer in my bottom carrier list- just. Don’t get excited – they only just make average!
  3. After a long absence, in 2011, I began frequenting Delta again. Boy am I impressed. Delta’s overhaul over the last few years has moved them from my no fly list to Good. I would rank them as the best US domestic carrier!
  4. Etihad who I flew six times in 2011 were my biggest disappointment. I gave them a solid 4 out of 5 suggesting they are an average carrier. For all of their awards and marketing, I found the hype did not love up to a fairly ordinary global product.
What have been your experiences? Next Thursday:  Cities Visited in 2011



  1. Must say I am surprised with your generous rating for Air New Zealand as someone who fly with them every 1-2 months. Their international services I concede is of a high standard. However their domestic service a different story altogether. Did you fly any of Air NZ’s domestic 737/320 service?

  2. Thank you for the comments. I fly Air New Zealand and associated airlines (eg Air Nelson) almost monthly domestically. I think their domestic product is very solid. Its far superior to most US domestic offerrings. Domestically NZ has evolved into a no frills service. There are options you can pay for to get some fo the frills. I find the customer service focus to be excellent- and I am a sucker for free lollies (candy) that is given out on landing. What have been your experiences?

  3. I recently flew on alitalias a330, and it was superb. One of the best ways to cross the Atlantic in business class.

  4. Am mystified by the high score for Emirates. They have 3-4-3 seating on 777s which is absolutely grim. Seatback videos, food etc can’t make up for such tight seating. Only a few other carriers, like the rather dodgy Air France/KLM, try this cynical move.

  5. Hiya
    The decision to put 10 across instead of the usual nine seats does indeed impact on cabin layout. Having said that Emirates does not have the worst seats on 777s. Its pitch at 33inches gives more leg room than almost any other airline. Seat width on the Emirates 777 is 17.5″. I do like 18.0″+ Some layout examples from other 777 carriers.

    Air Canada 3/3/3 32.0″ 18.5″
    American 2/5/2 32.0″ 18.0″
    ANA 3/3/3 31″ 16.5
    British Airways 3/3/3 31.0″ 17.5″
    Cathay 3/3/3 32″ 17.5″
    Delta 3/3/3 31″ 18.5″
    Emirates 3/4/3 33.0″ 17.0″
    Singapore 3/3/3 34.0″ 17.5″
    United Economy Class 2/5/2: 31.0″ 18.0″

  6. Thanks for the positive feedback! I SAS is actually better than Alitalia, in my opinion!!

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