The 30 Best Airlines in the World

How do you choose the 30 best airlines in the world? The simple answer is you fly a lot! I have accumulated over 5 million frequent flyer miles over the last 14 years and would have had a bunch more but I didn’t start joining programs until 2000. Needless to say in visiting every country in the world I have flown well over 250 different airlines.
airlines, airplanes
I actually have a spreadsheet of the names of different airlines that I’ve flown that I did bored on a plane last summer but I know I am missing several. That all said, I think I am a pretty good authority on airlines and can incorporate airlines from all ends of the globe.
airlines
So what qualities constitute being listed in the 30 best airlines in the world? Well that is relatively subjective as you might imagine and perhaps subject to some personal biases. And by perhaps, I mean I definitely have some airline biases.
Singapore Airlines
First, I want to state for the record that I am receiving no financial compensation or any type of rewards or awards because of this post. I simply think it’s a fun topic and one that many of us can relate to and have our own opinions and biases about-everybody flies!
Emirates, airlines, air
So my list is made up of my experiences using the following criteria for inclusion on the list:

– I have flown the airline at least 2 times.

– Overall quality of experience; which refers to the experience on and off the plane and can encompass coach, business, first, quality of lounges in airports and customer service.

Notes:

– I have treated the Virgin airlines separately for this list and think each of the 3 I included deserve to be included on their own merits. I think Virgin does an exemplary job.

– I have included budget airlines in this list. You will see 2 foreign budget airlines included and 2 alleged budget US airlines included as well.

– I bolded ‘and customer service’ above to amplify how important that is in making this list. You will notice a lack of major North American airlines from the list. This is mainly a result of poor customer service. Perhaps it’s because I fly the US legacy carriers so often and have had so many negative experiences but that is my feeling based on my experiences. Yes North American includes Canada and specifically Air Canada; which I find to have the worst customer service I have dealt with anywhere on Earth.
airline lounges
I don’t necessarily think all of these airlines are excellent or even very good; they’re just the 30 best airlines in the world in my view. That said, here you are! What do you think?

30. JetBlue
29. EgyptAir
28. Air Arabia
27. Jet Airways
26. Swissair
25. Southwest
24. IcelandAir
23. Korean Airlines
22. Japan Airlines
21. Lufthansa
20. Air France
19. Virgin America
18. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
17. British Airways
16. Gulf Air
15. Thai Airways
14. South African Airlines
13. Etihad Airways
12. Qantas
11. Air Asia
10. LAN Airlines
9. Turkish Airlines
8. Virgin Atlantic
7. All Nippon Airways
6. Qatar Airways
5. Cathay Pacific
4. Air New Zealand
3. Virgin Australia
2. Emirates
1. Singapore Airlines

Comments

  1. I agree that Singapore Airlines will be on TOP of your list. I would have pushed for Etihad, Qatar Air, Thai and Cathay Pacific on your 2-5 list. May I ask why #ASIANA is not on your list?

  2. Glad to see Southwest made the list – I would bump them a little higher. 🙂

    I had a good experience with Qatar Airways once we were in the air, but their boarding process (or lack thereof) was the most chaotic, disorganized mess I have ever experienced boarding an airplane in the United States. Total free for all, with people pushing and shoving both in the US and again when I boarded in Doha to return (although not as surprised when I experience that in non-Western countries).

    I mostly love Turkish Air – until recently when they cancelled a leg of an upcoming flight without notifying me (I happened to notice it when reviewing my flight details online) and then it took me 3 phone calls, waiting more than 30 minutes on hold each time, to finally get through to someone. To their credit, once I did get through, they were great and refunded my entire ticket within 4 days.

    Surprised to see LAN so high – I flew them several times a few years ago and nothing about them really stood out. And they mysteriously cancelled my flight from Cusco to Arequipa without warning and rebooked me on another flight without telling me.

    Of course, those are all just my experiences…everyone’s can vary. 🙂

  3. Fly Emirates will rank number 1! I’d travelled with Etihad, Singapore and Emirates but according to my point of view Emirates is the best

  4. Hi Lee, This is a bit of a coincidence as I’m just penning a review of the uber luxury end of air travel. I’d love to know what your most luxurious experience was. Didn’t you go First with Singapore airlines ones? Trying to find the post…

    • Ralph, I have to say that either SIngapore or Virgin Australia would be the most luxurious I’ve had…although I haven’t yet flown upper class with Etihad which I hear is really nice.

  5. Nihat GED?K says

    Turkish Airlines

  6. Great selection of airlines here Lee! I would also add Aer Lingus to this list as from my experiences with them they have always been a great airline. Always interesting to read positive reviews though because for many people it would always be easier to produce a list of their so-called ‘worst’ airlines.

    • Thanks Chris, I like Are Lingus and have never had any issues with them. It’s been 6-7 years since I’ve flown them but always saw them as average. In hindsight they could’ve been in the 25-30 range for me.

  7. Hello. This is a second list of airlines I have come across in the last week, and both do not include the North American airlines. I agree the customer service is not the same as you may receive from Asian and Middle East markets, but I believe they do try. I do have a hard time comprehending this though, as for example in the hospitality industry like restaurants, I find the service in North America (especially Canada where I live) to be far more superior to the one in European restaurants, so why can’t airlines get it???? Also Lee, sorry to hear about Air Canada as the worst, but it is sad that unfortunately you are not alone in that category.
    If you do not mind, I really admire your travel experiences and the magnitude of air travel you do, how did you ever become to do this? I would love to do half of what you do as I absolutely love to travel, especially by air, but how do I go about it, where do I start? Thanks so much, be safe out there!

    • Hi Mike B and yes I have had horrific experiences with North AMerican airlines over the years-all of them at some point even JetBlue and Southwest. Agreed about service in restaurants and other things but it’s the same issue you get with cell phone or credit card companies-they’re just too big to help people and their rules are too rigid often plus the service people don’t care. SOmetimes you have OK experiences but more often they’re bad.

  8. I agree with Singapore but would drop Emirates and possibly move up Turkish (lounge in Istanbul alone should give them a bump). When I flew to Dubai I went out of my way to fly Emirates even though a BA flight was more convenient just because I heard how great they were. I didn’t find them any better than a American Airlines Int’l flight, and certainly worse than it would have been on BA, a decent airline, but I don’t think they belong up there with the Asian airlines and not above Turkish either. I’m sure if you fly business with them it would be different, but that’s true of most airlines. oh and what about Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique?

  9. Guy Betsy says

    The best commercial airline for uber luxury First class travel will soon go to Etihad when their A380 aircrafts come into service. Their First Class are called Apartments, and the ultra top end of that service is called The Residence. Find the info on YouTube or check out etihad.com

  10. Anice Ahmed says

    hi lee…. grt work done by u… bt sad that ive never flown in a plane or either seen an airport.:(

  11. How about Garuda Indonesia? How many times have u flown with it?

  12. I fly all over the world on many different airlines, as I’m a travel writer and live half the year in Europe, the other half of the year in Asia.

    I tend to avoid all American airlines as the food is usually appalling, the service abysmal, and you have to pay for every minor thing. Thai Airways too is awful. Horrible food, and a tendency to treat their Thai passengers like second class citizens (I’m not Thai, but most of my Thai friends refuse to fly them now because of this).

    Other than that, I adore British Airways, Qatar, Finn Air and Etihad. And, for budget travel in Asia, although their on-arrival time accuracy is appalling, Air Asia is good for a cheap flight. And, of course, Monarch for the same in Europe.

  13. Ali Simsek says

    I agree that Singapore Airlines deserves to be the number one. However, I think that Turkish Airlines should be among the top three considering their on the ground and in the air services. Besides, it has been rated as the best airline in Europe for four consecutive years.

  14. AirAsia make it into the list too?..you gotta be kidding me

  15. Lufhansa and Air France do not deserve to be there. Thai is not what it was 10, 20 years ago. and omitting Asiana and Dragonair in the top 30 is a sin!

  16. WHERE IS DELTA AIRLINES BOYYY

  17. I’ve flown on five of your top 30 airlines and my five are in the same order on your list:
    5. JetBlue: Much better than Delta, Continental and United, all of which I tried and rejected for USA domestic flights.
    4. British Airways: Economy Class – Similar to SAA but more expensive.
    3. South African Airlines: Economy & 1st Class – Similar to BA but cheaper.
    2. Virgin America: Economy and 1st Class – My “go-to” airline for international flights. Very nice Clubhouses.
    1. Emirates: Economy Class: Really great service. Real silverware post-9/11.

  18. Flying Singapore to Bali…. Done!

  19. What about China airlines ? It is way better than delta or American Airlines or United

  20. Hi Lee:
    Excellent lists, and a wonderful website. I’ve flown 25 of these airlines and agree with your listing for the most part. As frequent travelers know, every traveler has good and bad experiences with airlines which can be the polar opposite of other travelers and even with our own experiences from trip to trip. I lived in the Middle East for 12 years and had the opportunity to fly a lot of airlines using the Dubai hub. One airline that I must say I was surprised even made your list is Gulf Air. It feels like I’ve flown pretty much every plane in their fleet, and from my experience, overall I would rate their service at the bottom of that region’s airlines (and in the middle of the rest of the world.) They suffer from competition of airlines like Qatar which are heavily government subsidized. After 30+ flights, I found Gulf Air’s Planes to be less than clean, sometimes even dirty. Maintenance was occasionally a concern. Food can be questionable. My first flight was back in 1998 when they were frankly terrible. They have improved, but in my view, not to the level of the airlines with similar rankings. I have flown some pretty awful airlines too, so I have a dozen or so to compare with on that end too. Like I said at the outset, every traveler can have a wide range of experiences with the same airline. But with this one exception (and who knows, maybe they didn’t like my hair and clothes styles), I think you’ve done a stellar job of fairly rating these airlines. All the best. Winter

  21. Hi Lee what’s your thoughts on Norwegian Airline? Have you flown with them before?

  22. Peter Viney says

    Koryo?
    PROS: The best hiring policy of any airline, bar none!
    CONS: A lingering bouquet of stale smoke.

  23. Nice post. I personal like for southwest but I am generally using american airlines.

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