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The world's 10 best airlines, according to customers

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

When it comes to international travel, American carriers are not considered elite by travelers.

Skytrax announced the 2018 World Airline Awards, and Singapore Airlines carrier came out on top — beating out Middle East carriers Qatar Airways and Emirates. No U.S. carrier was on the top 10 list.

A Singapore Airlines staff member walks down a set of stairs from an Airbus A380 in Sydney. (REUTERS/Tim Wimborne/File Photo)

Skytrax’s rankings are based on customer satisfaction — over 100 customers from different nationalities participated in the study from August 2017 to May 2018. Overall, 20.36 million people were asked about 335 airlines.

The top 10:

  1. Singapore Airlines
  2. Qatar Airways
  3. ANA All Nippon Airways
  4. Emirates
  5. EVA Air
  6. Cathay Pacific
  7. Lufthansa
  8. Hainan Airlines
  9. Garuda Indonesia
  10. Thai Airways

One expert said that the list didn’t tell the whole story.

“With consumer-voted awards like these, there’s always a combination of reality and perception involved, and perception is often based on history,” Seth Kaplan, managing partner of Airline Weekly and the author of Glory Lost and Found: How Delta Climbed from Despair to Dominance in the Post-9/11 Era, told Yahoo Finance.

“I’d be surprised if anyone flying between the U.S. and Europe today would say Lufthansa is clearly nicer than, say, Delta or even American, whose business-class product provides the all-aisle access that frequent business travelers complain Lufthansa lacks.”

A Virgin America and Alaska Airlines plane sit parked in a terminal. Alaska recently bought Virgin for $2.6 billion in 2016. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

While no U.S. airline came in the top 10, Alaska (ALK), American (AAL) and Delta (DAL) won awards in smaller categories.

Alaska Airlines (overall #38)

  • Best Regional Airline in North America
  • Best Airline Staff in North America
  • Best Cabin Crew in the USA

American Airlines (overall #71)

  • Best First Class in North America

Delta Air Lines (overall #37 — the highest for an American carrier)

  • Best Business Class Seat in North America

Kaplan points out that while “Delta was a terrible airline to fly a decade ago, those experiences are still in the minds of travelers, especially those who don’t fly all of these airlines frequently enough to be able to make a meaningful comparison.”

More generally, “U.S. airlines are in some ways still catching up in terms of the ‘soft product’ experience — onboard customer service and so forth, which can be great but less consistently so than on some airlines around the world,” Kaplan said.

“But it’s difficult to believe anyone doing a blind test, so to speak, today wouldn’t include at least Delta among the top 10.”

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