AirlineRatings.com has released its annual list of the world’s best airlines to help fliers choose which airline to choose for their return to the skies, as air travel returns in some regions.
The Australian aviation safety and product rating agency compiles its Airline Excellence Awards based on criteria including the age of the fleet, passenger reviews, and product offerings. This year, the global editors included airline responses to the Covid-19 survey as well.
Qatar Airways will be crowned the new number one in 2021, beating out previous winner Air New Zealand — which topped the list six times over the past several years and is now ranked second.
In an interview with CNN Travel, Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of AirlineRatings.com, says Qatar Airways’ response to the pandemic sealed the deal.
“Qatar Airways has always figured highly in our rankings, winning various awards such as Best Business Class, but it was the airline’s commitment to keeping its route network largely open that attracted the judges’ praise — and votes,” says Thomas.
Thomas also emphasizes the airline’s repatriation flights and its commitment to making pandemic flights as safe as possible.
In anticipation of the new year, AirlineRatings.com usually announces its top airlines in November. Due to the pandemic, the aviation safety and product rating agency had to change its procedures.
“We pushed the 2021 announcement into the 2021 year due to the chaos of Covid, and we wanted to see how the industry would handle the pandemic over a longer period of time before making selections,” explains Thomas.
Usually, profitability is one of the key factors assessed by judges as they rank the top airlines. Still, because of the steep financial impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry, airlineratings.com didn’t consider finances this year.
“We had to drop that this year because virtually all airlines are losing money,” says Thomas.
Besides the top 20 rankings, AirlineRatings.com also gave out awards for airline offerings, including best first-class (Singapore Airlines), best cabin crew (Virgin Australia), and best airport lounges (Qantas).
Budget carrier EasyJet took home the award for the best low-cost airline in Europe. At the same time, Jetstar won the award for the best low-cost airline in Asia/Pacific, and Southwest won the award for the best low-cost airline in America.
AirlineRatings.com’s top 20 airlines for 2021
1. Qatar Airways
2. Air New Zealand
3. Singapore Airlines
6. Cathay Pacific
7. Virgin Atlantic
8. United Airlines
9. EVA Air
10. British Airways
14. Japan Air Lines
16. Hawaiian Airlines
17. Alaska Airlines
18. Virgin Australia
19. Delta Air Lines
20. Etihad Airways