Aviation safety and product rating site AirlineRatings.com has just come out with its highly anticipated annual list of the best airlines for 2018, and the winner for the fifth year in a row is Air New Zealand.
These aren’t exactly your fly-by-night top 10 ratings, though. The agency considers over a dozen key factors including fleet age, passenger review ratings, profitability, investment rating and key product offerings such as premium economy on long-haul routes, and seating options in other classes, not to mention operational safety.
Here is the complete list of the top 10 airlines for 2018:
1. Air New Zealand
3. Singapore Airlines
4. Virgin Australia
5. Virgin Atlantic
6. Etihad Airways
7. All Nippon Airways
8. Korean Air
9. Cathay Pacific
10. Japan Airlines
Explaining the choices in a statement, Perth-based AirlineRatings.com said, "Air New Zealand is being honored for the fifth consecutive year for its continued record-breaking financial performance, in-flight innovations, environmental leadership, young fleet and motivation of its staff. These factors have stamped the airline as an industry trendsetter."
Interestingly enough, not a single carrier from the Americas made the list, and only one European airline, Virgin Atlantic did. What's more, Air New Zealand does not have a first class, only economy, premium economy and business, which makes its winning streak something of an upset.
The list, which is weighted heavily toward the Asia-Pacific region, signals a shift in aviation toward that part of the world; a trend that is likely to continue given the projected growth of this market in the coming decades. Airlines that made the cut on last year’s list but do not appear on this one include British Airways, Lufthansa and Taiwan-based carrier EVA.
AirlineRatings.com also picks a winner in each of 20-22 categories (depending on the year), three of which are new to the list this year. Here are those results.
Best First Class: Singapore Airlines.
Presumably, AirlineRatings.com was waiting to see what kind of new first class suites Singapore Airlines unveiled before confirming its newfound dominance in this category, knocking Etihad off the pedestal.
Best Business Class: Virgin Australia.
The airline introduced its new business class last summer and has been winning accolades for it ever since.
Best Premium Economy: Air New Zealand.
AirlineRatings.com cites the airline's continual innovation with the seats and service in this cabin.
Best Economy: Korean Air.
Wide seats with 33-34 inches of pitch on most of its long-haul fleet won the airline this category.
Best Cabin Crew: Singapore Airlines.
The Asian carrier is legendary for its service.
Best Catering: Qantas Airways.
The Aussie carrier has won this award for the fourth year in a row thanks to the efforts of its chef partner, Neil Perry, and his Rockpool Dining Group.
Best Lounges: Qantas Airways.
Qantas Airways took this prize as well for lounge offerings that "are an industry benchmark."
Best In-Flight Entertainment: Emirates.
Emirates won this category as one of the pioneers of in-flight entertainment.
Best Domestic Class: Qantas Airways.
Qantas Airways won for domestic in-flight seats and service that AirlineRatings.com said "matches or exceeds international service."
Regional Airline of the Year: Aegean Airlines.
Aegean Airlines out of Greece was the winner here.
Most Improved Airline: Tianjin Airlines.
Tianjin Airlines from China won for its expanding route network and improving in-flight offerings.
Best Ultra-Low-Cost Carrier: VietJet.
Quickly growing VietJet out of Vietnam was the winner here.
Best Long-Haul Airline: AirlineRatings.com breaks this category down by region in the following way…
Etihad (Middle East), Korean Air (Asia-Pacific), Virgin Atlantic (Europe) and Air Canada (The Americas).
Best Low-Cost Airline: Also ranked by region, the winners here were Westjet (The Americas), Scoot (Asia-Pacific) and Norwegian (Europe).
Of course, the significance of these rankings depends not only on the criteria judged by AirlineRatings.com’s panel of judges, but also the regions in which passengers tend to fly the most, not to mention which rating system or publication to which you subscribe. Qatar Airways, for example, won the world’s best business class in the World Airline Awards for 2017. At nearly the same time, Delta recently won the prestigious Crystal Cabin Award for Cabin Concepts at the Aircraft Interiors Expo for its own new business class suites, which debuted on its recently delivered Airbus A350 earlier this week. Condé Nast Traveler just released its own list of the world’s best airlines according to readers, while Travel + Leisure releases a variety of rankings each year as well, as does SkyTrax.
So as with any outright ranking, take this one with a grain of salt. But it doesn’t hurt to double check it before booking your next flight!