The World’s Best Airlines. (And No, None Are American.)

by Kevin Jon Heller

Skytrax has released its annual list of the world’s 10 best airlines.  Here they are, from #1 down:

  • Asiana Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Air New Zealand
  • Etihad Airways
  • Qantas
  • Emirates
  • Thai Airways
  • Malaysia Airlines

Two things stand out.  First, Asian and Australia/New Zealand dominate. I fly Air New Zealand and Qantas regularly, and think both are excellent.  (Air New Zealand is better, as the ratings indicate.)  I also like Virgin Australia, which isn’t on the list but has a great non-stop from Melbourne to Los Angeles for between $800-1000 (US).  My friends fly Singapore, Etihad, and Emirates regularly and rave about all three, especially Singapore.

Second, there are no US airlines on the list.  In fact, no US airline wins any of Skytrax’s 50-odd individual awards, either.  That, of course, should come as no surprise to anyone who lives in the US.  Our airlines are absolutely atrocious — dirty, cramped, lousy food, unpleasant service, pathetic entertainment.  (The only airlines that are anywhere near as bad are British Midlands and British Airways.)  A friend recently flew to Melbourne on United.  It was a 14-hour flight and the only entertainment was the airline-selected movie shown on little televisions attached to the ceiling.  Air New Zealand, Qantas, and Virgin, by contrast, have in-seat TV screens with your choice of more than 120 movies.  And the food is good.

Skytrax’s rankings don’t take them into account, but the difference between Asian and American airports is also stark.  Denver and Indianapolis have nice airports, but most are just as dirty, cramped, and unpleasant as the airlines themselves.  (And don’t get me started on US customs…)  The Asian airports, by contrast, are fantastic.  They’re spacious, clean, with great food choices and — invariably — free internet everywhere.  And getting though customs is a breeze.

I really don’t miss living in the US.

4 Responses

  1. Hi Kevin: Can’t disagree re British Airways, having had to scramble and find new flights for the ICC Review Conference after BA cancelled the flight to Entebbe. Perhaps BA is unaware of the large gathering scheduled to start next week?

  2. Thanks for the tips. I’ll know what airline to choose (or not to choose…) if I need to fly to Melbourne in the near future…

  3. You do realise that the biggest differences are between Asian (including Oceanic)  and Middle Eastern airlines, on the one hand, and US and Euro airlines on the other?

    Competition and labour laws. Most of those top ten are ‘national champions’, most are one of two or three dominant carriers if not the dominant carrier in their national market, and most have either no unions (all of them except ANZ and QAN) or have bashed their unions remorselessly for over a decade (ANZ and QAN!).

    That, and chapter 11/Euro subsidies.

  4. Hmm, I thought the joys of American capitalism meant that our companies were always the best in the world…

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