Best Airlines in the World (my reactions and comments)

a group of airplanes on display

Display of planes I spotted at Kuala Lumpur airport late last year

Who is the best airline you have flown? Chances are, it is not US carrier!

Each year at the Paris Air Show, Skytrax releases their rankings of airlines including world’s best airlines, best cabin crew, most improved etc. Of this year’s Top 100 airlines, I have flown exactly half of them.

a row of seats in an airplane

Singapore Airlines 777 between Canberra and Sinagapore

How Reliable is Skytrax?

Skytrax claims its World Airline Awards to be “the global benchmarks of airline excellence” with almost 20 million travellers from 105 countries voting on 320 airlines between August 2016 and May 2017. Yet each year I question some of their statistics. This year, for example,

  • Why is Garuda, a supposed five-star airline at the number ten spot and not higher?
  • Why is Asiana with a Skytrax Five Star rating sitting at number 20?
  • Why are Emirates always rated one of the best airlines yet Skytrax still gives them only a four-star rating?
  • How is Etihad a Skytrax five-star airline when the best their customers can give them is an average five out of ten?

Skytrax voters and I do agree that Qatar Airways is the best airline in the world for 2017. It will be interesting to see the impact of the current blockade by Saudia Arabia and it’s allies on the business of the airline.

What we do not agree on is the Number Two! I still place Emirates as the second best airline I have flown. They give that distinction to Singapore Airlines and in Number Three ANA, who I have still not flown (nor is Japan one of the 68 countries I have visited).

This year’s Top 20 Airlines

a group of airplanes parked on a runwayExactly half of the Top 2o carriers are Star Alliance members. Four are OneWorld members. Just two are Skyteam members.

Four are not members of any alliance, although Hainan has been approached by OneWorld. Emirate Airlines President Tim Clark does not support airline alliances and Etihad has established own airline alliance, Etihad Airways Partners which includes Alitalia, Air Berlin, and Jet Airways amongst others. Virgin Australia has a relationship with a mix of airlines including Etihad Airlines Partners, Delta, Singapore,  Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic. No doubt both Skyteam and Star Alliance would dearly love to add Australia to their membership base.

a table with different colored text

Regional Breakdown of the Top 20

Nine of the Top 20 airlines are Asian, four are European and four are Middle Eastern. Three of the top twenty airlines are from the Pacific. An impressive effort to have the two main Australian airlines plus Air New Zealand in the top 20. I give both Qantas and Virgin Australia a 92% rating and Air New Zealand 98%. Those down under really do not have a lot complain about when we fly!

The North American Airlines

None of the top twenty airlines are from the Americas.

  • Air Canada ranked the highest at the 29th best airline in the world (they are my 25th favourite airline)
  • Delta: 32
  • Alaska at 36th is the second highest rated airline in the USA
  • JetBlue is at 39
  • Virgin America: 43
  • Southwest Airlines climbed from 66 to 54
  • Porter Airlines: 55, a drop from last year’s result of 47 and a lot lower than where I would expect to see them
  • WestJet comes in at 58th
  • American: 74th position which is a slight climb from number 77 last year
  • United dropped ten spots from 68 to 78
  • Hawaiian is at 86th position
  • Aeromexico scrapes into the top 100 at position 100

Ranking The Low-Cost Carriers

a plane on the tarmac

This Jetstar plane carried me to Singapore

AirAsia and Norwegian, the world’s fastest growing discount airlines came in as the 26th and 28th best airline, beating every North American airline. Considering how much I complain about Air Asia, this really puts into perspective how badly Canadian and US airlines are performing in relation to the rest of the globe.

Easyjet popped in at 41, Jetstar: 44 and Scoot: 61. Even awful Ryanair made it into the Top 100 airlines jumping from 108 last year to 76, beating United at 78, who may have moved to the world’s most hated carrier position! Peach was knocked down from 78th to 96th.

Climbs and Drops

In addition to those already mentioned, the highest climbs came from Saudi Arabian Airlines rising from 82 to 51  and were named the World’s Most Improved Airline. Since the appointment of a new management team at Saudia, their hard and soft product has been improving.

The highest rated African airline is Ethiopian which jumped from 76th to 48th position. This means it now narrowly beats South African Airways at 49th.

Philippine Airlines who I flew for the first time recently climbed 17 spots from 83 to 67. Aeroflot climbed from 40 to 30 whilst competitor S7 sits at 95.

a green airplane at an airport

A S7 plane at spotted at Bangkok Airport

Aer Lingus climbed 11 spots to reach number 38. China Southern reached 23rd position, up from 32nd. This is the closest this airline has been to a Top 20 spot

British Airways moved down to 40th (last year 26).  This is the worst result in years for the UK carrier.

SriLankan Airlines dropped to 81st place from last year’s 67th place reflecting the turmoil surrounding the airline. It is a pity because I found them a delight to fly.


My experience is that if you aim for one of the Top 20 airlines, you are paying for a product which is going to be safe, clean, reliable and fairly pleasant. In Business and First, the experience will be close to perfect!

An airline in the Skytrax Top 100 between positions 20 and 69 will suffer from inconsistency and varying quality even in Business Class. Any airline above position 70, is probably best avoided, unless you are wroting a review on them!


Related Posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *