interest obsession of mine to “collect” airlines flown. I am inching closer to 100 different airlines flown. Some of those carriers are no longer flying. In most cases this a tragedy (eg Pan Am, Ansett Australia, Malev) and in others, probably a good thing (Air Australia).
I’ve flown airlines that belong to all of the three major airline alliances (One World, Skyteam and Star Alliance). Truth be told, 40% of my flights have been with One World carriers, however. So I pricked up my ears when on Wednesday, the CEO of IAG (Iberia/British Airways) suggested that airline alliances will no longer exist in ten years. I certainly think the benefits provided to customers between one world carriers are being eroded. For example, the massive differential in points earned across carriers. It has made the Qantas Frequent Flyer program much more complicated. For example, Qantas no longer gives Business Class status credits and points on Malaysia Airlines flights into some Australian ports.
All in all, I have enjoyed participating in the connections and benefits offered by these alliances.
After four recent Sri Lankan flights, I have now flown 12 of the 14 current One World carriers a total of over 500 times to every continent. As I said earlier. of my 1160+ flights, about two in five is with a One World carrier. I am yet to fly Japan Airlines and S7. I intend to fly both of those airlines in 2017 which means I will have then flown on all fourteen One World member carriers. Anyone else able to say they have as well.
I have also flown two ex One World carriers: Malev and Aer Lingus (now left the alliance).
So which airlines out of the current One World alliance are the best?
After hundreds of One World flights on which I have
obsessively regularly rated every aspect of the flight, clear patterns have emerged. In order, my One World Top 12 is:
12. Lastly are American Airlines which I rate at just 58% after twenty years of flying them across the USA, South America and Europe. I have been on more American Airlines planes than every other airline bar two. In all of that time, I can only remember one memorable positive flight. When connecting through DFW to Honolulu from Philadelphia my inbound flight was delayed by over three hours reducing my generous connection time to almost seconds. An AA staff member was waiting for me at my disembarkation gates, and provided me with a minibus to get to my connecting gate and despite a warning it would be unlikely, did get my bag to Honolulu too! There was even a champagne waiting for me on the plane.
My other overwhelming memories, however, are lackluster check-ins, underwhelming lounges, awful meals, very unhappy staff and depressingly awful service. There are people who love AA and get annoyed with my critiques of the carrier but I have yet to discover the romance. Skytrax places them as airline #77 in their top 100 airlines so globally other fliers know they are not one of the best airlines in the world! Skytrax customers struggle to give them 3/10 so my rating is probably generous. How do service-oriented American customers tolerate such poor service?
11 Air Berlin (60%) at almost forty years old, has a fascinating history but has struggled financially for a while now. I find my experiences with them to be disappointing. They don’t do a lot to grab a passenger’s attention (except for the occasional free chocolate!)
Skytrax places Air Berlin at #71st spot in their top 100 airline list. I think the recent investment by Etihad is starting to result in improvements across Air Berlin. Business class has been appearing on Europe flights and they have expanded their buy on board options in the last year. Their food was pretty underwhelming, previously. Where Air Berlin excels is their amazing punctuality in the top airline in the world for this. No mean effort operating in Europe. If they could I find ways of transferring this leadership to other aspects of their operations. Their unstaffed Berlin lounge with its vending machines needs a revamp!
10. Finnair (70%) provide a fairly solid product gaining #27 spot with Skytrax. I like their long haul offerings between Asia and Helsinki where their new 350s are earning rave reviews. Economy Class on their European flights and between Europe and the Middle East is underwhelming, however. Passengers resent having to pay for meals and drinks, seating is tight and staff attitudes hit and miss.
9. Iberia (76%) gets #52 spot with Skytrax. A three-star airline according to the ratings agency it receives 6/10 from their customers. They are another carrier that charges for meals and drinks on short haul. Staff can be a bit aloof. I really like the airy and spacious Iberia lounge at Madrid. That is well worth scheduling in. Otherwise, I would not rush to fly them in the future.
8. Looking forward to my next two Royal Jordanian (79.5%) flights are in December but unfortunately not on their 787! They are my 8th favorite One World carrier. Skytrax are harsher than I am about RJ relegating them to the 99th place on their Top 100 airlines, lower than American Airlines. My own experience tells me otherwise. Their own lounges are great. I find the staff friendly and happy, meals are both beautiful to eat and look at and entertainment is good. Even short flights come with a good meal selection. Ask for their mixed nuts on board. It is a delicious selection! I am disappointed they have chosen to cram their 787 with nine across and a 32″ pitch.
7 LATAM (83%), the merger of Lan Chile and Tam. They need consistency. For a start, they need to do something about their terrible reputation for punctuality. ( I have decided that the LAT in stands for LATE.) I will never fly them if I have an urgent meeting or event to get to. When their service is good, it is top notch. Cabin crew are either very engaged, warm and fun or they can be aloof and unhappy, ruining the experience. Good generous meals, a nice drinks selection and good entertainment redeem the airline for me.
6. I am sad about the struggles Malaysia Airlines have had over the last few years. A once proud airline is still offering top notch service but there are cracks compared to the past. I rate them 84% and put them as the seventh best One World carrier. Staff are terrific, food mostly excellent and entertainment pretty good. Make sure you try their signature Satay (pictured below before I devoured them). Skytrax took away their five star rating last year and they have fallen to 34th place.
5. British Airways (86%) I first flew their predecessor BOAC in the 1960s. When they became British Airways , I kept flying (alas no Concorde). Multiple times around the world in Economy and Business, I have had some very good experiences. Skytrax says they are the 26th best airline in their top 100 list but I have had too many disappointing experiences on board in the midst of some very good trips. At times sloppy service, poor punctuality and tatty cabins undermine what can be a very quality product. Check out the amazing lounges in London and New York, though.
(4. If I had flown JAL Japan Airlines, I think they would sit around here. I will find out in 2017!)
4. After just four flights with Sri Lankan the newest One World carrier, they impressed me enough to put them into fourth best with my rating of 87% . Good meals, friendly staff and excellent safety ratings make them a nice option for travel between Asia and Europe. Skytrax is more critical placing them at 67th best airline in the world.
3. Next month I will fly my 380th Qantas flight – on an Airbus 380! Qantas and I have had “our moments” but after twenty years of flying them over half a million miles, I hold a huge loyalty to them giving them a 92% rating. Skytrax says they are the world’s ninth best airline. Qantas do long distance air travel well and their domestic product is one of the best in the world. Food is good (and free on all flights), entertainment is usually very good and staff some of the best in the industry.
2. Just the lounges in Hong Kong are enough to make me love Cathay Pacific (98.5%). Add great service, excellent safety and delicious meals provided for no charge on all flights in all classes. It feels like excellent service is embedded in the DNA of Cathay Pacific. Skytrax considers them to be the fourth best airline globally.
1. And the best One World airline is Qatar Airways. My 100% represents a record of largely perfect flights. They are the benchmark of how airline service should operate. Skytrax places them as Number two carrier in the world, crediting them as one of nine five star airlines in the world with a five-star rating. Bookings, Check-ins, Lounges (most), Seats, Meals, Service are the best of the best. There are rumblings about their staff management- some of their staff practices are identical to Pan Am in the 1950s/1960s! My next Qatar flight is next month from Dubai to their hub in Doha.
In summary, this is my ranking of the OneWorld airlines compared with Skytrax. We overlap with the exception of Finnair and Royal Jordanian:
I am puzzled that S7 Siberia airlines does not appear in Skytrax Top 100 airlines. It is listed as the third best airline in Eastern Europe.
I would fly carriers 1 to 6 without hesitation notwithstanding what I see are the slides of British and Malaysia.
Carriers 7 to 10: LATAM, Royal Jodanian, Iberia and Finnair, I would weigh up options and, if I had a choice, look at a better option.
I now avoid 11 and 12: Air Berlin and American unless I have absolutely no choice.
Overall, the mean of my One World Experience is 83.1%.
Anyone flown all OneWorld carriers (more than once!)? Who is your favourite One World carrier?