Remliel voted for the world’s best airlines (outside the U.S.), with several Middle Eastern and Asian carriers getting top marks for those long-haul flights around the globe. The no. 1 airline is no surprise, though. Counting down…
One of the world’s leading airlines in size and the scope of its network, German carrier Lufthansa has done a major reboot of its inflight services, too—introducing a premium economy section and all-new lie-flat beds in business class. Lufthansa’s guest chefs—an impressive group that includes David Bouley and Jean Georges Vongerichten—add pizzazz to premium class cuisine, and first class fliers get their own luxurious digs in Frankfurt, with private beds and a spa.
19. Asiana Airlines
Fans of Asiana Airlines wish that all flights were run by this Seoul-based carrier. Asiana is beloved for its consistently good in inflight cuisine and customer service. On a long-haul flight, their lie-flat seats in the first-class cabin are exceptionally comfortable. Asiana now flies to 90 destinations in 26 countries from its hubs at Incheon and Gimpo International airports; notably, it serves ten cities in the U.S.
This airline gets raves for its friendly flight attendants, generous portions of more-than-edible food, and its business class cabins with their soothing mood lighting and comfortable lie-flat beds. The carrier flies to some 61 cities, but unfortunately none at this point in the U.S. after the airline dropped service to Los Angeles. Recent reports from Bangkok indicate that the airline may soon return to U.S. shores once it starts taking delivery of its new fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Colombia’s national airline flies a fleet of more than 100 planes, including nine Boeing Dreamliner 787s—all with lie-flat beds in business class and stylish cabin lighting. And it’s also in line to take delivery of the Airbus A350, which should give it one of the youngest fleets in South America. A member of the Star Alliance, Avianca serves six U.S. destinations, including New York, Washington, Miami, and Los Angeles.
The Dutch flag line is the oldest continuously operating airline in the world, and it didn’t pull off that feat by sitting still: KLM’s premium economy cabins get raves for seat comfort, and its hub airport in Amsterdam is a favored stopover spot. And, naturally, there’s free Heineken beer in all classes of service.
Swiss styles itself as a boutique carrier rather than a stodgy flagship airline, with an attention to inflight service and cuisine that customers appreciate wherever they’re sitting. Even in coach, Swiss delights with multi-course meals, fine Swiss wines and cheeses, and niceties like amenities kits and adjustable headrests. Another plus is its Zurich hub, where fliers can make fast connections either by air or rail to destinations all over Europe.
14. Etihad Airways
Have you heard of Etihad’s flying apartment yet? You will. The Abu Dhabi-based airline now offers what we consider the future of first-class comfort: a three-room “residence” (as they call it) with a bedroom, private bath with shower, and lounge. But the carrier doesn’t ignore those sitting in the back, either: A dedicated team of “flying nannies” is on hand to entertain young travelers with toys and magic tricks, while grownups throughout the plane dine on multi-course meals and fine wine.
13. EVA Air
Based in Taipei, EVA Air is known for its outstanding service, a well-trained crew, and those Hello Kitty–themed planes, now recognized around the world. It currently flies to 50 cities in North America, Asia, Europe, and Australia.
12. Turkish Airlines
Turkey’s flagship airline wins raves for its excellent cuisine, comfortable seats, and attentive inflight service. New nonstop flights to Istanbul from cities like Miami and Atlanta have expanded the carrier’s U.S. presence (it now passes through nine American cities), giving travelers access to the vast array of connections from its main hub in Istanbul to hundreds of cities through Europe and Asia.
11. Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific is making it easier for fliers to get from the U.S. to the Far East: with five daily flights from the New York area alone, it offers frequency and inflight comfort for those spending 16 hours aloft. The airline wins raves for its cuisine influenced by top Hong Kong chefs, and in addition to award-winning first and business class cabins (with lie-flat seats), a recently refreshed premium economy cabin feels more “premium” than coach, with a glass of champagne and a hot towel upon boarding.
The flag carrier from Oz made its name pioneering ultra-long-distance routes and flies one of world’s longest nonstops—the nearly 17-hour slog from Dallas to Sydney—with the world’s largest plane, the Airbus A380. Travelers like the high quality food and fine Australian wines served in all cabins; particularly popular is the small premium economy section tucked away on the A380’s upper deck right behind business, which offers additional legroom and a snack bar.
9. Porter Airlines
Based at Toronto’s close-in Billy Bishop Airport, Canadian upstart Porter Airlines has won the loyalty of stateside customers with its frequent and reliable turboprop flights to destinations ranging from Newark and Boston to Charleston and Myrtle Beach, S.C. Readers appreciate the airline’s customer-friendly touches, like free Wi-Fi and refreshments; a complimentary glass of wine is served, even on short flights.
8. Korean Air
Korean Air consistently scores high with its comfortable seats and interiors, but what sets it apart from other airlines is its emphasis on fine cuisine in every class of service. Fliers in the economy cabin get piping-hot bibimbap customized to their preferences and freshly brewed green tea. But the superb food shouldn’t come as a surprise: Korean Air maintains its own farm on bucolic Jeju Island, ensuring that everything served on board is humanely raised and organically grown.
7. Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic’s signature style is getting a wider audience now that its partnership with Delta gives it access to hundreds of additional destinations in the U.S. Its iconic Upper Class features fully flat beds and an inflight bar, and Virgin is keeping its edge with transatlantic fliers in all classes, getting high marks in the entertainment and website categories. Readers also praise its premium economy section, with its pleasing touches like hot towels and a welcome drink. It’s amazing how far little touches can go to make you feel like a human again, even when crammed into a seat a 35,000 feet.
6. Virgin Australia
Virgin’s Aussie offshoot—the country’s second-largest airline behind Qantas—flies to more than two dozen cities in Oz, with hubs in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney. It has won raves from travelers with a new business class suite aboard its fleet of Airbus A330s, featuring seats that are 28 inches wide and 80 inches long, all with direct aisle access. Its premium economy class is also reputed to be among the best over the South Pacific—good news for budget-minded customers who want some extra comfort on those ultra-long distance flights.
5. ANA (All Nippon Airways)
ANA flies to 42 destinations, with the newest route connecting Chicago to Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport, and it offers long-distance travelers both a premium economy and business class product with extra legroom. (A new layout upfront features a staggered business class seat configuration that affords greater privacy.) ANA was the launch customer for the Dreamliner, with more than three dozen of the models in service. It’s also known for its impeccable service and fantastic food; first-class passengers can dig into a kaiseki feast—a traditional Japanese multi-course dinner—while watching a movie on their own 23-inch LCD monitor.
4. Qatar Airways
The launch customer for the world’s newest airliner—the cutting-edge Airbus A350—Qatar has one of the industry’s youngest fleet of ultra-long haul widebodies. (It also flies the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.) Both jets’ composite structure allows lower cabin pressure and higher humidity, which can lessen the effects of jet lag, especially if you’re connecting through Qatar’s hub in Doha to points beyond. Qatar is also one of just five airlines to receive a five-star ranking for service by Skytrax.
3. Air New Zealand
With some of the longest flights in the world, the Kiwi carrier pays close attention to seat comfort; legroom is ample on its widebody planes, and they also boast a lie-flat economy seats—or “Skycouch,” which becomes a pull-out double bed. Business fliers on a budget can opt for the premium economy “Spaceseat,” a pod-like seat with extra legroom. And all classes get that famed New Zealand wine.
Emirates’ posh perks for premium fliers—cocktail lounges, inflight showers—may get all the attention, but that’s only part of the reason it scores so high among travelers. With its growing fleet of Airbus A380s, state-of-the-art seatback entertainment system with 1,800 channels, and Wi-Fi connectivity, the Dubai-based airline gets high marks in all categories, from inflight amenities to food and beverage to seat comfort. Airport lounges also score well, with showers and quiet rooms at Dubai and major destinations like New York and London.
1. Singapore Airlines
Singapore has ranked no. 1 for 28 of 29 years of RCA survey results—for good reason. SQ typically scores top marks in that travelers’ trifecta of seat comfort, inflight service, and reliability. It also gets praise for continually upgrading its product, with a new jazzed-up entertainment system with expanded viewing opportunities for all cabins. For those sitting in the pointy end of the A380 plane, there are the “Singapore Suites,” a pair of fully flat recliners that can be combined into a double bed. A brand new premium economy cabin is now appearing on those super long-distance transpacific routes where extra legroom truly matters.