This last year, I flew 121 times for a total distance of 331,127km (205,753 mi). This is eight and a quarter times around the earth. I was inside planes for a whopping 19 days of the year. Some airlines made my time with them a delight – and some made it not so fun. I rate each flight I take for every factor from Booking to Check-in to deplaning. and keep a tally of my rating using Flightmemory.com. The scores averaged out give me the ranking of flights, airlines and airports. I have placed my score for each airline next to the airline name. Next year, I need to write more trip reports!
Check out my worst airline of 2012 list.
Here are my 2012 best airlines (NB I have not ever flown Malaysian, Asiana, Eva or ANA who Skytrax consider amongst the best airlines in the world).
1. Qatar Airlines – 100%
Qatar: 22 November 1993. Fleet: 116 Destinations: 124 Employees: 20,000. Skytrax Rating: 5 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 87%
I used to be cynical about Qatar’s many awards but I have to concede the airline is actually fantastic. The thing that is impressive about Qatar is not only are they excellent but they are consistently excellent. That is an impressive achievement for an airline that is expanding as rapidly as Qatar. Crews are friendly, entertainment system brilliant and not only is the airline comfortable in Business but they have the most generous seat room in Economy. The airline is removing first class from its planes although their Business Class is probably better than most carrier’s First Class. Meals are excellent, excellent and excellent! So glad they are joining One World. Now to find a flight on their 787!
1. Emirates – 100%
United Arab Emirates: 25 October 1985. Fleet: 191 Destinations: 124 Employees: 50,000 (whole group). Skytrax Rating: 4 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 60%
Emirates is steadily and determinedly moving toward being the world’s biggest airline on every measure. My experiences with Emirates have been consistently fantastic from their straight forward booking system to their efficient check in service. Wherever I have been, I get great on board service, amazing meals and access to a brilliant entertainment system. I have yet to meet an unfriendly employee whether in their call centre, at check in, or on board.
3. Cathay Pacific – 96%
Hong Kong: 24 September, 1946. Fleet: 135 Destinations: 60 Employees: 29,800 Skytrax Rating: 5 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 78%
One of the oldest airlines in my Top Ten, I have been flying them for 20 years now. Cathay slipped in my ratings a couple of years ago but they have bounced back now. The new business class refit is just right. I like their new Premium Economy and even their standard economy seats are acceptable. Their entertainment system is brilliant. Staff are friendly. Food is great. And I am so in love with their lounge at Hong Kong airport.
3. Air New Zealand – 96%
New Zealand: 1930. Fleet: 135 Destinations: 104 Employees: 10, 450 Skytrax Rating: 4 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 70%
Skytrax savaged Air New Zealand his year pushing them out of their Top ten to 17th place. I struggle to find fault with he airline. Starting with friendly Kiwi service, add a website that is easy to negotiate, great aircraft interiors and some of the best lounges ever. The food on board and in their Koru Club lounges that is fresh and delicious across all classes. The website easy to negotiate and on board entertainment system. I am not a fan of their new Trans Tasman offerings as I think the bundles they offer are too complicated but they work okay. Best safety videos ever!
5. Virgin Australia -95%
Australia: August, 2000. Fleet: 90 Destinations: 50 Employees: 7, 006 Skytrax Rating: 4 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 73%
Two years ago, there is no way I would have put this airline anywhere near the Top Ten. Since then the carrier has had a total overhaul.New name, new livery, new uniforms; new catering; new aircraft and a new business class. Service is outstanding. Food is great.
5. Thai Airways -95%
Thailand: 1 October 1972 . Fleet: 89 Destinations: 75 Employees: 25.761 Skytrax Rating: 4 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 67%
My major niggle with Thai is some nervousness with their past safety record. My major regret of 2012 was not getting onto their A380! Must rectify in 2013! Thai hospitality is a notch above other airlines. Their planes sparkle. Food is good in Economy and excellent in Business. Service friendly and genuine.
7. Singapore 92%
Singapore: 1 October 1972 . Fleet: 320 Destinations: 62 Employees: 14,515 Skytrax Rating: 4 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 88%
Singapore Airlines in my mind used to be the Emirates and Qatar of the world but I think their leadership has been slightly eroded. They still have great food, great planes, and a great entertainment system (Krisworld), however. My major criticism of SQ is that their staff tend to be a little too robotic for me. They do work hard on every flight.
8. JetBlue 91%
USA: 11 February, 2000, . Fleet: 172 Destinations: 75 Employees: 11, 797 Skytrax Rating: 4 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 76%
Yes, I am saying JetBlue are the best airline in the USA. I have been flying JetBlue regularly since their first year. For a budget airline, their offerings are very, very good. In fact, I think better than their so called “full service” counterparts. Free checked baggage (which in the USA is a rarity), personal entertainment units, and free snacks and drinks. I always buy the Even More Space with extra leg room and priority boarding. Their website has always been a breeze to use. And when they make a mistake they acknowledge it and try and fix it. Flying feels very stress free with JetBlue. J.D. Power and Associates acknowledged this when they found JetBlue to be number one in customer satisfaction for a North American low-cost carrier.
9. Virgin America 90%
USA: 8 August, 2007. Fleet: 52 Destinations: 19 Employees: 2,200 Skytrax Rating: 4 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 80%
The airline is still not making any money but it wows the crowds (and me) with their product. In 2012, I had my first disappointing experience when I was a little underwhelmed with a very delayed LAX-SFO flight. The experience has caused me to put JetBlue ahead of them this trip. I think their customer service responses could have been handled better. Lessons from JetBlue might be handy here. Apart from that, I find the carrier a real joy to fly. On board food and drink offerings are interesting. I like the on screen ordering system. Entertainment options are grand. WiFi works well. With a very few exceptions, every Virgin America employee is both friendly and fun.
10 Qantas 88%
Australia: 16 November 1920. Fleet: 143 Destinations: 41 Employees: 27, 405 Skytrax Rating: 4 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 77%
Qantas is not as good as they used to be. Skytrax knocked them out of their Top Ten carriers last year. I believe they still deliver a quality product domestically and internationally, however. Their website is straightforward to use unless you are booking multi city international fares when it is a nightmare. They could fix their frequent flyer app to make it useful. I found the staff to be very welcoming on all my flights this year. I like their meals. Where Qantas really excel is that they really understand the needs of the long haul customer. The refurbished interiors look great and the Q entertainment system works very well with great variety of shows. Disappointing they have pulled wi-fi.
Alaska Airlines are still a pleasure to fly. Friendly stress free experiences. JD Power said they were the best mainline carrier in the USA and commended them for their boarding, deplaning and baggage process. I would agree. Entertainment options are limited. WiFi is available. Main cabin Food choices includes some good meals and fresh foods and Alaska seem to have worked hard on First Class choices. They have the best airline app I have seen for the iPhone and Android.
LAN are usually good -but again not consistent. Their Economy product is actually quite stable but Business class is all over the place. Meals superb. Entertainment systems variable. Skytrax places them as a three star. When they are good, they are 4 star.
Lufthansa have attentive and professional service, good entertainment, excellent food and drink selection. Not in my Top Ten but definitely worth recommending.
Turkish Air have the best food of any airline I have ever been on – in every class. The rest of their product, however is incredibly inconsistent. On flights where everything worked well, I would put them into the Top Ten. The trouble is that for every superb flight, I had with them, I then had a mediocre one. Although, I hasten to add, I never had a bad experience. So on some flights cabin crews were amazing. On others disappointing, On some there is a great entertainment system and free wi-fi. On others there are almost no offerings. I am still waiting for my points to be added to my United Mileage Plus account.
Delta continues to draw ahead of the other US airlines. Their Business Class offerings I think are superior to any of the other US carriers. Economy (Coach) less so. Staff enthusiasm and friendliness has improved. JD Power has them as the best of the major four US carriers.