Since its birth all the way back in 1914, commercial air travel has always been one of the most popular forms of transportation. Understandably so, it’s the go-to choice for long travel distances and is the safest form of transportation on the planet. Furthermore, only with air travelling can gallivanting souls reach the farthest corners of the earth.
But oftentimes, people are a bit hesitant to travel by air, should there be alternatives. The reasons behind this could be plenty. It could be due to the fact that air travel is inherently more expensive, or maybe because the check in process is time-consuming, or simply because people don’t know which airline to choose.
If so, this article is meant to guide you through the top 20 best airlines in the world that offer the best air travel experience.
When it comes to air travel experience, there are tons of factors to take into consideration. How is the seat? How is the leg room? How are the meals offered? What kinds of entertainment are available? Are the latest movies available? What kind of drinks are there? Is the cabin crew friendly and supportive? Every tiny detail comes into play in making your experience travelling truly memorable.
Skytrax with the World Airline this year has enlisted some of the best air firms in the world. Curious to see which airline makes the list? Read on to check out the current best airlines in the world.
The Top 20 Airlines in the World - Ranked
Air New Zealand
Dropping four spots from 2019, Air New Zealand barely makes it into the top 20 this year. They may be the last name in the top 20, but that means they are among the best of the best in the world.
Image from Unsplash
New Zealand's flag carrier airline is Air New Zealand Limited. The airline, which is based in Auckland, flies to 20 domestic and 31 foreign destinations in 20 countries, predominantly in and around the Pacific Rim. Since 1999, the airline has been a member of the Star Alliance network, with which it can carry its passengers to pretty much any destination in the world.
Two spots below its 2019 ranking at number 17, Bangkok Airways ranks number 19 in the list of 20 best airlines to fly in the world. Besides, it won the award for World's Best Regional Airline and Best Regional Airline in Asia.
Bangkok Airways (PG) is a regional airline that flies nonstop to over 20 locations in Thailand, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Laos, Maldives, Burma, India, and Singapore. Suvarnabhumi Airport (SVV) is the airline's major hub, while Phuket International Airport (HKT) and Chiang Mai International Airport are secondary hubs (CNX). Some planes in the airline's fleet are configured with both Economy and Business Class cabins. However, most of its fleet are economy-class only.
Swiss International Air Lines
Five spots below its ranking in 2019, standing at number 18, Swiss International Air Lines maintains its spot in the top 20 best airlines in the world. Its operation during the pandemic earned it the COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) is the national airline of Switzerland. From its hubs in Zurich (ZRH) and Geneva (GVA), the airline offers nonstop flights to over 100 destinations in over 40 countries. The airline is a member of Star Alliance and has codeshare agreements with several other airlines, allowing it to provide worldwide service. The airline's fleet is divided into two cabins (Business Class and Economy Class) and three cabins (First Class, Business Class, and Economy Class). Premium class passengers may have access to the airline's SWISS First Lounge, SWISS Senator Lounge, or SWISS Business Lounge depending on their departure city.
Leaping into the top 17 this year, a long way from its previous position at number 35 in 2019, Turkish Airlines saw a huge upsurge in quality as one of the top flights. Thanks to its improvement, it has nailed many awards, namely Best Airline in Southern Europe, Best Business Class Lounge in Europe, Best Economy Class in Europe, and COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Image from Unsplash
Turkey's national airline, Turkish Airlines, is the country's flag carrier. It runs scheduled services to 315 locations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, making it the world's largest mainline carrier by passenger destinations. The airline travels to 126 countries, more than any other airline, and serves more destinations nonstop from a single airport than any other airline in the world. The cargo branch of the airline serves 82 destinations with a fleet of 24 cargo aircraft. It has been a member of the Star Alliance network since 2008.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Inching forward 2 slots, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is here to stay in the top 20 best airlines in the world. It also won the award for COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Image from Unsplash
KLM (KL), the Netherlands' national flag carrier, is based in Amstelveen, near the airline's hub at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS). KLM now serves 163 locations globally as part of the SkyTeam alliance, with 76 being intercontinental and 87 being European. This comprises cities in Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, North America, and South America, as well as places throughout Europe. The airline's planes are divided into three cabins: Business Class, Economy Comfort, and Economy Class. The Business Class (also known as World Business Class) has lie-flat chairs on long-haul flights. KLM's fuel economy is one of the greatest in Europe, thanks to its efficient network, modern fleet, and several cost-cutting efforts.
Garuda Indonesia ranks 15 in the top airlines in the world. 3 spots below the previous list. It won the award for Best Airline in Indonesia and COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Image from Unsplash
Garuda Indonesia (GA) is Indonesia's national carrier and a SkyTeam member. In 13 countries across Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and Europe, the airline offers nonstop flights to around 40 domestic and 20 international destinations. Some of the planes in its fleet are only equipped with Economy Class seats. Other aircraft have two-cabin configurations (Executive Class, which is Garuda's Business Class product, and Economy Class) and three-cabin configurations (Executive Class, which is Garuda's Economy Class product) (First Class, Executive Class and Economy Class). Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (CGK) near Jakarta and Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) in southern Bali are the airline's hubs.
Aeroflot Russian Airlines
Aeroflot was steps away from the top 20 best airlines in the world in 2019 (ranked 22), and this time it has finally made it with a jump to rank 14. Such impressive growth brought home several awards, including Best Airline in Eastern Europe, Best Airline in Russia, and COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Aeroflot (SU) is Russia's national airline and one of Europe's largest airline corporations. Aeroflot carried 35.8 million passengers in 2018. (55.7 million passengers as Aeroflot Group including subsidiaries). Aeroflot is a proud member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance, serving 149 destinations in 53 countries. Aeroflot's fleet is one of the youngest of any airline operating more than 100 planes in the world. The airliners have two or three cabins (Business Class, Premium Economy ("Comfort Class"), depending on the configuration. The European Community Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) Index of Aeroflot is comparable to international peers.
Dropping out of top 10, at number 13 on the list, we have Germany carrier Lufthansa. However, despite not making it into the top 10 this year, Lufthansa’s quality is no short of excellence, as shown in its winning Best First-Class Airline Lounge, Best First-Class Onboard Catering, Best First Class in Europe, and COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Lufthansa (LH), Europe's largest airline, flies to over 215 destinations nonstop from Frankfurt. There are 18 points in Germany, as well as 78 nations throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, North America, the Caribbean, and South America. The airline's planes come in a variety of one- and four-cabin configurations, with First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy Class, and Economy Class available. Lufthansa is a Star Alliance member with codeshare agreements with five other airlines. Austrian Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines, Air Dolomiti, Lufthansa CityLine, and Germanwings are only a few of Lufthansa's subsidiaries. Frankfurt Airport (FRA) and Munich Airport (MUC) are the airline's two hubs.
China Southern Airlines
A slight increase from its previous spot at number 14 in 2019, the 14 spot is secured by China Southern Airlines.
Image from Unsplash
China Southern Airlines (CZ), the world's largest passenger airline, flies nonstop to over 190 destinations in China, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North America. The airline flies to 35 countries in total. The airline's principal hub is Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, which is a member of the SkyTeam alliance (CAN). Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport (CKG), Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK), and Ürümqi Diwopu International Airport are secondary hubs (URC). The aircraft in China Southern's fleet are configured in a variety of ways, including First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy Class, and Economy Class.
Closing in on the top 10, British Airways finds itself landing on the 11th spot, which has earned it the awards for Best Airline Staff in Europe, Best Premium Economy Onboard Catering, Best Airline in the United Kingdom, COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Image from Unsplash
British Airways (BA) is the UK's flag carrier and the country's largest airline. The airline, a founding member of the Oneworld alliance, flies to more than 180 destinations worldwide, including six UK cities and airports in Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, South America, and Oceania. London Heathrow Airport (LHR) and Gatwick Airport (GWR) are BA's hubs (LGW). The majority of short-haul flights use aircraft with Economy Class (known as UK Domestic on domestic flights and Euro Traveller on international flights) and Business Class (known as Club Europe) seats. First Class, Business Class (known as Club World), Premium Economy (known as World Traveller Plus), and Economy Class (known as World Traveller) are available on long-haul flights.
Skyrocketing into the top 10 best airlines in the word, who would have thought Air France could have made such a splash? Well, there it is, at rank 10. It also hauled tons of awards, such as Best Airline in Europe, Best Airline in Western Europe, Best Airline in France, and COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Image from Unsplash
Air France (AF) is the flag carrier of France and the country's largest airline. Air France, a founding member of the SkyTeam alliance, flies to approximately 35 destinations in France and approximately 170 destinations in 93 other countries. There are nonstop flights to destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. International long-haul flights typically have three or four service classes. The airline employs a three-cabin configuration for short- and medium-distance flights within Europe. AF has hubs at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and Orly Airport in Paris (ORY).
Although it dropped two ranks from number 7 to number 9, Hainan Airlines still sees itself in the top 10 best airlines in the world. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when it wins awards such as Best Airline in China, Best Airline Staff in China, Best Business Class in China, and COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Haikou-based Hainan Airlines (HU) is the People's Republic of China's fourth largest airline. The airline provides nonstop flights to around 90 domestic and international destinations from its hubs at Haikou Meilan International Airport (HAK) and Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK). Points in Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa are among them. Hainan Carriers has codeshare arrangements with roughly a dozen airlines despite not being a member of any airline alliance. Its fleet is mostly made up of two cabins (Business Class and Economy Class).
Qantas Airways didn’t move an inch on the ranking this time, casually enjoying its 8th ranking on the list, which allows it to secure two titles: Best Airline in Australia / Pacific and Best Airline Staff in Australia / Pacific.
Qantas (QF) is one of Australia's most iconic trademarks, having been founded in remote Queensland in 1920 and playing a key part in the growth of the Australian and international aviation industries. The Qantas Group is now a varied global aviation business that includes regional, domestic, and international services, as well as Jetstar, Australia's largest low-cost airline group, and Qantas Loyalty, Australia's largest Frequent Flyer program with over 12 million members. The Qantas Group operates more than 7,300 flights each week and offers flights to more than 1000 locations across the world through its codeshare and Oneworld partners.
Evergreen Airways, commonly shortened to EVA Air, was pushed down one spot from its previous ranking at number 6, but still is the 7th best airline in the world.
Taoyuan International Airport (TPE), near Taipei, is home to EVA Air (BR). After China Airlines, it is Taiwan's second largest airline. EVA travels to around 70 destinations in Taiwan, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. It belongs to the Star Alliance. The airline's fleet comprises aeroplanes with both three and two cabins. Depending on the aircraft, Business Class is referred to as Royal Laurel Class or Premium Laurel Class. Elite Class is a Premium Economy cabin with a higher price tag. On all flights, Economy Class is available. Uni Air (B7) is an EVA Air subsidiary that performs domestic and regional flights.
Cathay Pacific Airways
Losing its spot in the prestigious top 5 best airlines in the world, Cathay Pacific Airways finds itself landing on the 6th spot on the ranking. It has seized two awards: Best Business Class Lounge in Asia and COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Cathay Pacific is a Hong Kong-based multinational airline that was created in 1946. Cathay Pacific is the world's fifth largest airline, flying to over 190 destinations in Asia, Oceania, Europe, Africa, and North America. It is a founding member of the oneworld alliance. Cathay Pacific is well-known for its seven lounges at Hong Kong International Airport, which cater to luxury cabin passengers, Marco Polo Club Silver, Gold, and Diamond members, and Cargo Clan Elite members. Cathay Pacific lounges at Hong Kong International Airport are also open to Oneworld Frequent Flyers.
First name to appear on the top 5 best airlines in the world is Japan Airlines, who came just short of top 10 last year. This remarkable jump earned it multiple awards, such as World's Best Economy Class, Best Economy Class Airline Seat, Best Economy Class in Asia, COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Japan Airlines (JL), Japan’s largest airline, is based in Tokyo. It flies nonstop to more than 30 foreign and domestic locations in Asia, Europe, Oceania, North America, and South America. JL is a member of the Oneworld alliance and has codeshare agreements with approximately 30 other airlines. First Class, Executive Class (akin to Business Class), Premium Economy Class, Class J (economy class seating with wider seats), and Economy Class are the four service levels offered by the airline. There are two-cabin, three-cabin, and four-cabin layouts in its fleet. Haneda Airport (HND) and Narita International Airport (NRT) in Tokyo are Japan Airlines' principal hubs (NRT).
Rising from the 5th position to the 4th position on this airline ranking, Emirates has become a household name nowadays. It has landed awards, such as World's Best Airline Inflight Entertainment, Best First Class in the Middle East, and COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, Emirates (EK) is the Middle East's largest airline and one of the country's two flagship airlines. From its hub at Dubai International Airport, the airline offers nonstop flights to over 140 destinations in 78 countries (DXB). It is one of just a few airlines that offers service to all six continents. The airline's fleet includes mostly three-class cabin configurations (First Class, Business Class, and Economy Class), with a few two-class aircraft thrown in for good measure (Business Class and Economy Class). Suites, flat beds, and sleeping seats are among the seating options available in the First-Class cabin. For First Class passengers, Business Class passengers, and Skyward Gold members, Emirates operates 33 Emirates Lounges.
ANA All Nippon Airways
Despite the fierce competition of many other airlines, ANA All Nippon Airways still retains its number 3 ranking on the list, which has earned it 5 different awards: World's Best Airline Cabin Cleanliness, World's Best Airport Services, Best Airline Staff in Asia, Best First-Class Lounge in Asia, and COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
All Nippon Airways (NH), or ANA, is a Japanese airline based in Tokyo. It serves around 50 domestic locations as well as 32 international destinations in Asia, Europe, and North America. ANA has hubs at Haneda Airport (HND) and Narita International Airport (NRT) in Tokyo, as well as secondary hubs at Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka and Chubu Centrair International Airport in Chubu, Japan (NGO). ANA Wings, a regional airline, and Air Do and Vanilla Air, both low-cost carriers, are among the airline's subsidiaries. It operates aircraft with First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy Class, and Economy Class cabin configurations. The Star Alliance is a member of the airline.
It came up short last time and it came up short this time. Still, Singapore Airlines proudly presents itself on the 2nd spot of the list, which has also earned it lots of awards, namely 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 Award.
Singapore Airlines (SQ), the country's flag carrier, is routinely named among the top airlines in the world. Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) is the company's major hub, with flights to more than 60 destinations in more than 30 countries. The airline's wide-body fleet includes the ultra-luxurious Singapore Airlines Suites (available only on the Airbus A380), First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy Class, and Economy Class cabins. Singapore Airlines is a Star Alliance member having codeshare agreements with over 36 other airlines. KrisFlyer is the Singapore Airlines Group's frequent flyer program.
The undisputed heavyweight champion of the sky – Qatar Airways! With superb quality all-round, Qatar enthrones once again on the list, keeping its stature from 2019! With that, Qatar Airways claims the most awards yet, 7 titles. Those are: 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 COVID-19 Airline Excellence Award.
Qatar Airways (QR) is Qatar's national airline and a member of the Oneworld airline alliance. The airline travels to roughly 145 locations throughout all six inhabited continents from its hub at Hamad International Airport (DOH). Qatar Airways' fleet includes planes with two cabins (Business Class and Economy Class) as well as three cabins (First Class, Business Class, and Economy Class). Seats in both Business and First Class can be turned into beds. The airline operates the Al Mourjan Business Lounge for premium class passengers flying from Hamad International Airport. At London Heathrow Airport, there is a second Qatar Airways lounge (LHR).