Overseas carriers dominate SKYTRAX awards

Non-U.S. airlines, including one of my personal favorites, dominated the 2013 World Airline Awards, which were announced at the Paris Air Show June 18.

If you’re not familiar, SKYTRAX’s World Airline Awards are based on the world’s largest annual airline passenger satisfaction survey. Covering more than 200 airlines, the survey polled travelers from more than 160 countries, measuring satisfaction across more than 38 key performance metrics of airline front-line products and service, including check-in, boarding, on-board seat comfort, cabin cleanliness, food, beverages, in-flight entertainment and staff service.

The annual awards are the culmination of the prior year’s surveys. You can view all the awards here.

The honor of being named “World’s Best Airline” went to U.A.E.-based Emirates. Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, ANA, and Asiana rounded out the top five in the “World’s Best” category.

In addition, Emirates was named “Best Middle East Airline” and, for the ninth consecutive year, won “World’s Best In-flight Entertainment.”

Best First Class Cabin honors were accorded to Etihad Airways which, like Emirates, serves the United Arab Emirates. ANA, Japan’s largest airline and a personal favorite of mine, won second place, edging out Emirates (3rd), Singapore Airlines (4th), and Lufthansa (5th) in the First Class cabin.

ANA also won two SKYTRAX awards for “World’s Best Airport Services” and “Best Cabin Cleanliness.” These accolades add to the prestigious five-star rating ANA received from the organization in March.

Best Business Class category winners were Qatar Airways, Oman Air, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, and Etihad. Having been completely captivated when I flew ANA’s Business Class aboard a 787 Dreamliner between Seattle and Tokyo, I have a hard time envisioning how these other carriers can be any better. Maybe I’ll have the opportunity to find out first-hand in the future.

SKYTRAX awards also cover categories including best lounges, best catering, best signature dish, and best airline by region.

Best First Class Lounge winners, in order, were Lufthansa, Qantas, Qatar, British Airways, and Etihad. Best business class lounge winners were Qatar, Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic, British, and Qantas.

Best First Class Meals were served by Etihad, Lufthansa, ANA, Emirates, and Qantas, while only one of the First Class winners also served the Best Business Class meals. Those honors went to Turkish Airlines, Qatar, SWISS International, Qantas, and Austrian Airlines, respectively. Again, having thoroughly enjoyed my Business Class meal aboard the Dreamliner, I’m eager to see how these other carriers are better.

Gourmands who inhabit premium economy will be interested in knowing that top honors for Best Economy Class Meals went to Air New Zealand, Qantas, Turkish, Virgin Australia, and British, while the Best Meals served in Standard Economy were put out by Asiana, Turkish, Singapore, Qatar, and Oman Air.

Best Signature Dish was awarded to three airlines. Malaysia Airlines won first place for its satay service, while Asiana took second for its bibimbap, and Emirates third for its Arabic mezze. I can’t think of a U.S. carrier that even has a “signature dish,” and no, the bags of pretzels don’t count.

Interestingly, no U.S.-based airline placed in the top 10 of any of the categories I’ve mentioned so far. In fact, the first place a U.S. carrier shows up is in the “Best airlines by region” category for North America. Even at that, the honor for Best North American Carrier goes to Air Canada, followed by Virgin America, Delta (NYSE:DAL), jetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU), and United (NYSE:UAL), meaning that, of the top five North American carriers, only two were major U.S. carriers!

Best low-cost carriers in North America encompassed carriers from all three major countries. The top five were Virgin America, Canada-based WestJet, Southwest (which hasn’t really been “low-cost” for quite some time, though it’s definitely “no-frills”; NYSE:LUV), Frontier, and Mexican carrier Volaris.

Frontier Airlines is a wholly owned subsidiary of Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings (NASDAQ:RJET).

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photos by Carl Dombek
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