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Skytrax revealed the World’s Top 100 Airlines for 2021 and Qatar Airways maintained its number one ranking for the second year in a row and for the sixth time since 2001.
UK-based Skytrax announced the highly-anticipated 2021 World Airline Awards on Tuesday, considered the “Oscars of airlines.” Awards were based on customer surveys collected for 23 months, from September 2019 to July 2021, and comprise a mix of more normal travel times and pandemic travel. While the pandemic caused some shifting of airline positions compared to 2019, a handful of core airlines still maintained the higher rankings.
Branded as the Passenger’s Choice Awards, over 13 million travelers worldwide nominated their favorite airline in a survey and ranked specific aspects of the customer experience on a scale of one to five, including cabin service, COVID-19 response, ground/airport services, and the onboard product. Over 350 airlines were included in the survey results.
Qatar Airways took home the gold for the sixth time since 2001, following by Singapore Airlines in second and Japan-based ANA All Nippon Airways in third. Qatar also secured five other awards, including Best Business Class, Best Business Class Seat, Best Airline in the Middle East, World’s Best Business Class Airline Lounge, and Best Business Class Onboard Catering.
Singapore Airlines was awarded World’s Best Airline Cabin Staff, World’s Best First Class, World’s Best First Class Seat, Best Economy Class Onboard Catering, and the Best Airline in Asia. ANA won World’s Best Airport Services, Best Airline Staff in Asia, Best First Class Lounge in Asia, and World’s Best Airline Cabin Cleanliness, which is a notable success in the wake of the pandemic. All three carriers received a COVID-19 Airline Excellence award.
Other noteworthy winners were Saudi Arabian Airlines, winning Most Improved Airline, Singapore’s subsidiary Scoot taking home Best Long Haul Low-Cost Airline, and Spain-based Vueling securing Best Low-Cost Airline in Europe.
No North Amiercan airline made the top 20 list, though Delta Air Lines was the overall highest ranked at number 30. The Atlanta-based carrier took home awards for Best Airline in North America, Best Premium Economy Class Airline Seat, Best Business Class in North America, and Best Premium Economy Class in North America.
Here’s a closer look at the world’s top 20 airlines for 2021.
Air New Zealand maintained its spot in the top 20 airlines in the world for 2021, but dropped four spots from 2019. Founded in 1940, the Auckland-based carrier serves over 50 domestic and international destinations across New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific, Asia, and North America. The company’s aircraft livery features the Koru on its tail, which is a pattern known as “mangōpare”, or hammerhead shark. Koru has Māori origins, which are the indigenous peoples of mainland New Zealand, and Mangōpare signifies strength, tenacity, and resilience.
Bangkok Airways dropped two spots to number 19 in 2021’s top airlines list, but maintained its ranking as the World’s Best Regional Airline and Best Regional Airline in Asia. The carrier was established in 1968 and operates scheduled service to over 20 destinations across Asia, including Thailand, China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Swiss International Air Lines, the national carrier of Switzerland, dropped five spots from 13 to 18 in this year’s rankings, however, it was one of 40 airlines that secured a 2021 COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award. Swiss is hubbed in Zurich and operates flights to over 120 destinations across five continents, including Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia.
Turkish Airlines jumped 18 spots from 35 to 17 this year, putting it in the top 20 list for 2021. The Istanbul-based carrier was founded in 1933 and, in 2019, was the world’s largest mainline carrier by number of destinations served, flying to 315 cities in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Turkish won a number of awards in Skytrax’s World Airline Awards, including Best Airline in Southern Europe, Best Business Class Lounge in Europe, Best Economy Class in Europe, and COVID-19 Airline Excellence.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines jumped two spots in 2021’s rankings, coming in at number 16. The Amsterdam-based airline was established in 1919, making it the oldest carrier in the world still operating under its original name, and serves 140 destinations across the world, including 92 in Europe. KLM received a COVID-19 Airline Excellence award.
Garusa Indonesia, the country’s flag carrier, ranked number 15 in 2021, dropping three spots from 2019. The carrier was named Best Airline in Indonesia in 2021 and received a COVID-19 Airline Excellence award. The Jakarta-based airline serves over 50 destinations across 14 countries in three continents, including Asia, Australia, and Europe. Garuda Indonesia is named after the mystical bird, Garuda, from Hindu mythology that represents birth and heaven.
Aeroflot Russian Airlines jumped from 22 to 14 this year, putting it in the 2021 top airlines list. The Russian flag carrier was founded in 1923, making it one of the oldest active carriers in the world, and is one of the most recognized brands in the country. Aeroflot took home two titles this year, including Best Airline in Eastern Europe and Best Airline in Russia, and won a COVID-19 Airline Excellence award. The carrier serves over 160 domestic and international destinations across 55 countries.
Lufthansa dropped out of the top 10 best airlines compared to 2019, ranking 13 in 2021. Germany’s flag carrier won Best First Class Airline Lounge, Best First Class Onboard Catering, and Best First Class in Europe this year, and was given a COVID-19 Airline Excellence award. Lufthansa is the second-largest carrier in Europe in terms of passenger traffic and serves over 200 destinations worldwide.
China Southern Airlines jumped two spots from 14 in 2019 to 12 in 2021 in this year’s rankings. China Southern was established in 1988 after a merger of several domestic airlines and is now one of China’s “Big Three” carriers alongside Air China and China Eastern Airlines. Due to the pandemic, the carrier became the world’s largest airline by seat capacity in October 2020, edging out American Airlines that previously held the title. China Southern serves 200 destinations in China and abroad.
British Airways jumped eight spots to number 11 in 2021, just narrowly missing the top 10 list. The UK-based carrier secured three titles, including Best Airline Staff in Europe, Best Premium Economy Onboard Catering, and Best Airline in the United Kingdom, and a COVID-19 Airline Excellence award. The carrier is based at London’s Heathrow Airport and serves over 200 destinations across 83 countries.
Rounding out the top ten airlines in 2021 is Air France, jumping 13 spots from 23 in 2019. The Paris-based carrier was established in 1933, making it one of the world’s oldest airlines, and serves nearly 200 destinations worldwide. Air France secured four awards this year, including Best Airline in Europe, Best Airline in Western Europe, Best Airline in France, and COVID-19 Airline Excellence.
Hainan Airlines ranked number nine in 2021, dropping two spots from 2019. The China-based carrier won Best Airline in China, Best Airline Staff in China, and Best Business Class in China this year, and secured a COVID-19 Airline Excellence award. Hainan was established in 1993 and grew from a small domestic airline to a large global carrier serving nearly 100 destinations worldwide.
Qantas Airways maintained its number eight spot in this year’s rankings. The Australia-based carrier secured two titles this year, including Best Airline in Australia/Pacific and Best Airline Staff in Australia/Pacific. Qantas was named the world’s safest airline by AirlineRatings.com and is the world’s oldest continuously operating airline after KLM suspended service during WWII. Known as The Flying Kangaroo, as referenced in its logo, Qantas flies to over 85 major cities worldwide.
EVA Air, which stands for Evergreen Airways, dropped one spot in 2021 to number seven. The Taiwanese carrier operates four domestic routes and serves 50 international destinations in 20 countries. EVA was ranked the sixth safest carrier in the world by AirlineRatings.com, falling three positions from 2020.
Cathay Pacific Airways, simply known as Cathay Pacific, fell two spots from four in 2019 to six in 2019. The Hong Kong flag carrier secured one title, Best Business Class Lounge in Asia, and earned a COVID-19 Airline Excellence award. Cathay Pacific operates flights to 70 destinations in 29 countries worldwide.
Japan Airlines secured a spot in the top five airlines, jumping six positions from number eleven in 2019. Japan’s flag carrier won three titles this year, including World’s Best Economy Class, Best Economy Class Airline Seat, Best Economy Class in Asia, and was given a COVID-19 Airline Excellence award. JAL operates 90 domestic and international routes.
Emirates jumped one spot in 2021, up from number five in 2019. The Dubai-based airline took home three awards this year, including World’s Best Airline Inflight Entertainment, Best First Class in the Middle East, and COVID-19 Airline Excellence. Emirates serves over 130 international destinations and operates the largest fleet of A380 aircraft in the world.
ANA All Nippon Airways, commonly referred to as ANA, maintained its number three spot in 2021’s rankings. The Japanese carrier was awarded four titles, including World’s Best Airline Cabin Cleanliness, World’s Best Airport Services, Best Airline Staff in Asia, and Best First Class Lounge in Asia, and secured a COVID-19 Airline Excellence award. ANA is the largest carrier in Japan in terms of passenger numbers and serves over 100 domestic and international destinations.
Singapore Airlines took the number two spot again this year after being named the best airline in the world in 2018. The carrier took home several awards, including World’s Best Airline Cabin Staff, Best Airline in Asia, World’s Best First Class, World’s Best First Class Seat, Best Economy Class Onboard Catering, and COVID-19 Airline Excellence. Singapore operates one of the youngest fleets of aircraft in the world to over 75 destinations worldwide.
Qatar Airways secured the number one spot for the second year in a row and for the sixth time since 2001. The Doha-based carrier won six titles, including Airline of the Year 2021, Best Airline in the Middle East, World’s Best Business Class, World’s Best Business Class Seat, World’s Best Business Class Airline Lounge, Best Business Class Onboard Catering, and secured a COVID-19 Airline Excellence award. The young airline was established in 1993 and has quickly grown to serve over 140 destinations worldwide across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, North America, and South America.
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