Best Airline

As usual, there are no U.S. or European airlines in the latest Skytrax survey of world's best. My own personal favorite is All Nippon at number 4, but Swiss is my favorite European carrier followed by Icelandair. Neither are on the list, however. Who's your favorite European carrier, and how would you compare them to any of these? What's most important to you when selecting an airline for your European trip – price, room, service, amenities like AVOD, non-stop versus connections, other? 1. Emirates 2. Qatar Airways 3. Singapore Airlines 4. ANA All Nippon Airways 5. Asiana Airlines 6. Cathay Pacific 7. Etihad Airways 8. Garuda Indonesia 9. Turkish Airlines
10. Qantas

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

Very difficult to say, and any such list would of course be a vast oversimplification. Honestly, if you're comparing coach, there's not much that makes any carrier significantly better than any other (although there are certainly some that stand out as competing for the worst - including some notorious low-cost carriers - and yes, I'm looking at you, Spirit...). I think its only once you start looking at the premium cabins where you start to see some real distinctions, but even then it can vary by route and plane, and be incredibly inconsistent (eg Asiana has great business class seats on some long routes, and really bad ones on others). That said, its no surprise here that none of the US carriers make this list. I'm also pretty surprised to see Garuda on there (an airline I've flown a few times, and while I was impressed afterwards, not favorably...). For me, if the flight is short (up to a few hours) nothing matters much other than getting there in one piece, more or less on time. For longer flights, I value seat comfort over all else. On really long flights (10-15 hours and up) I need a business class, lie-flat seat for sleeping. Other amenities are nice, but they're all secondary. If the seat sucks and I'm stuck in it for 10+ hours, I'm going to be a real wreck after they scrape me out of it and dump me at my destination. For what it's worth, I think I'm done with coach seats on any trans-oceanic flights from now on if I can help it - my last long haul in coach from Seattle to Frankfort nearly killed me. But I'm actually looking forward to my planned 15-hour flight to Australia on the upper deck business class cabin of a United 747 (we'll see what tune I'm singing after get there...).

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Business Class on the upper deck of a United 747 is completely brilliant. Best flight I ever took -- and that's saying a lot because since that flight I have grown to detest United in so many ways!

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Economy class on the United 747 is anything but brilliant...outdated, cramped, and no AVOD. The plane itself is great, but I don't see how United can compete in economy anyway when all of the other carriers are much better equipped. I understand their 747 economy cabins are in line for an update, which is a good thing. I found their pricing to be much better, however, so maybe that's how they're still pulling in economy class customers on the 747...that's why I chose them for my last flight. Their 777s are fine. United's service (FAs, service desk, etc.) has improved IMHO, but their delays are unbelievable...the worst.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1964 posts

Doesn't the comfort also reflect how much national carriers are subsidized by their govenments. Back when Air France had higher subsidies, even coach was very pleasant.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

I should clarify that it was quite a while ago that I enjoyed that flight. It may be less than that now. United is my airline of LAST choice now -- as regards U.S. carriers.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6828 posts

I've only flown two airlines out of that list Turkish and Singapore. To be honest they weren't any better or worse than any other airline I've been on. The closest international airport to my house is Newark. Newark is a hub for United, and has the most flights to Europe, so I use them the most. Never had any problems with United (formerly Continental), so I see no reason not to use them, and will happily rack up FF miles with them for free flights.

Posted by Angela
Sammamish, WA
403 posts

Well, we usually avoid US carriers for all trans-oceanic flights. They just suck compared to pretty much everyone else. In my humble opinion, none of the US or European carriers can really hold a candle to the Asian carriers. Asiana, Emirates, Singapore.... Those are truly in a class of their own! My favorite European carrier is SAS, but sadly they don't fly direct from Seattle anymore. I would say they are on a par with Qantas. We flew KLM/AirFrance recently, ended up on a Delta plane (code share) and were pleasantly surprised. The service was much nicer than domestic Delta
(sky hag) service and the food was actually good. And making connections at Schiphol is always a pleasure. On the return, business class still had the old style seats, so that was a bit of a bummer, but overall not a bad experience.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
772 posts

Some of Skytrax past claims didn't go down well with the UK Advertising Standards Authority.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6828 posts

Rose writes: Michael, have you ever considered flying out of Albany? Why would I fly out of Albany when I can go to Newark, which is the same exact distance away, and has non stop service to every major destination in Europe, and Asia. Albany of course has no direct service outside of North America.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

I'm with James regarding price...it's my number one consideration behind making sure I'm not flying on a dud airline that might crash. And I'm with NY Michael on using United. So, I'll gladly fly United when they have the best fare, even if the 747 economy experience is sub-standard. As I said earlier, their other large bodies are just fine (like 777). Frankly, United is the best option from Des Moines anyway, so unless I choose to drive to MSP or ORD (which I sometimes do if fare is awesome), I start in DSM for international flights. And it's probably accurate that the most noticeable point of differentiation among airlines is in business class and above, but there are significant differences in economy, too. For example, All Nippon has huge AVOD screens and extras, like warm towels, real flatware, and unbelievable service from FAs. Swiss has great service, warm towels, and free Swiss chocolates. You don't get any of that on United, so some airlines are quite a bit better, even in economy. Still, price is my number one deal. As for Skytrax, they don't make claims. This is survey data from something like 18 million fliers. It's generally regarded as a good barometer, and the best airlines fight for great Skytrax rankings. If you don't think their methodologies are any good and, therefore, don't trust their rankings, then don't use them. :)