The world’s best airlines 2016

The winners have been announced, but are they everything they’re talked up to be? We ask passengers what they really think of the world’s best airlines.

Your experience with an airline can make or break your loyalty to that carrier. From consistently running on time to excellent customer service and complimentary extras while on board, maintaining high standards is imperative to providing passengers with the best experience possible while in the air.

Each year Skytrax, a review website for airlines and airports, uses customer reviews to help award the best of the best. The question is: are they really?

We dive into the customer experience to see which of the top airlines truly deserves your customer loyalty. All awards and ratings mentioned below have been presented to each carrier by Skytrax.

Skytrax Awards: World’s Best Airlines 2016

Wondering where all the Australian carriers placed? Check out the full list of categories they were named in.


1. Emirates

The facts: Headquartered in Dubai, Emirates has been flirting with the World’s Best Airlines awards since day one. When the awards were first founded in 2001, Emirates was the name at the top of the list. Since then it’s been clawing its way up and down the list, regaining its crown in 2013 before falling to 5th place in 2015.

While, in 2015, Emirates still found its way into the top 10 for World’s Best Business Class Airlines and World’s Best Economy Class Airlines, it was in the lower half of the lists. Skytrax reviews reflect this, rating it 6/10 with improvements required in its food and beverage and staff services.

What customers say:

“No complaints. Good service, nice staff, decent food and enough space (especially on the A380).” - Sarah

Verdict: With praise for its service and leg room, Emirates deserves its rank on the Skytrax list. Yes, the food could be improved, but it’s not too shabby at the moment.


2. Qatar Airways

The facts: Luxury, thy name is Qatar. This five-star airline is no stranger to the Skytrax Awards having nabbed the top spot in 2011, 2012 and 2015, and is showing no signs of leaving anytime soon. In 2015 it was also awarded the Best Business Class Airline Seat award and won the bronze for the World’s Best Economy Airlines award.

Overall, Skytrax reviews give it an 8/10, with food and beverage, service, comfort, entertainment and cost all receiving equally high praise.

What customers say:

“Good service. Halal options are also better than most.” - Linda

“To fly, it’s great: reasonably priced (if you’re not going direct or from Doha), comfortable, good service and food, state-of-the-art tech and all that.” - Katy

Verdict: There’s a reason this luxury airline has come out on top so many times. Its entertainment and service is quality, its prices are reasonable and its food and beverage options are accommodating.


3. Singapore Airlines

The facts: This luxury carrier has claimed the top spot on Skytrax’s World’s Best Airlines list three times since 2001. In 2015 it took home a commendable second place, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

That year it also cleaned up in the business class stakes, taking out the award for World’s Best Business Class Airlines and coming in a close second for World’s Best Economy Airline.

Similar to Qatar, Skytrax reviews give it an 8/10 with all services and comforts receiving high praise.

What customers say:

“This is my favourite, hands down. I do not have a single complaint. I’ve flown with them about 30+ times and I’ve loved every single trip.” - Mia

“Singapore is truly amazing but the actual quality of their planes varies hugely (the A380s owned by the airline are definitely showing their age). Deservedly a premium player though.” - Angus

Verdict: Plane upgrades aside, Singapore can’t be praised enough for its quality service and comfort. It’s one that has definitely earned its spot on the list.


4. Cathay Pacific Airways

The facts: Hong Kong’s five-star flagship carrier has been a consistent winner of the World’s Best Airlines awards, taking out the top spot in 2003, 2005, 2009 and 2014. In 2015 it took out third place for World’s Best Airline AND World’s Best Business Class Airlines.

Where it shines is in its customer service; in 2015 it was awarded second place for Best Cabin Staff. Skytrax customer reviews gives the airline 7/10, with food and beverages being the core departments that need improvement.

What customers say:

“Staff are chill but the planes I’ve been on were old and dodgy.” - Mia

Verdict: Cathay Pacific’s strength is truly in its customer service, which can be viewed as casual though still highly attentive.


5. ANA All Nippon Airways

The facts: While Japan’s five-star airline has never won the top spot on the World’s Best Airlines list, it’s been making a name for itself as of late after having launched daily flights between Sydney and Tokyo in late 2015.

The carrier’s business and economy class offerings have both won top 10 placements on Skytrax’s lists, and overall it receives a customer rating of 8/10 on the site. It’s strength? Staff service, which gets a big 5/5 from customer reviews through the website.

What customers say:

“Pretty good - probably on par with most airlines.” - Eva (domestic flight)

Verdict: While the Australia-Japan route is still relatively new, the general consensus on ANA is that it’s a quality airline with amazing staff service.


6. Etihad Airways

The facts: Up until 2014, Etihad maintained a four-star airline rating through Skytrax. Since then, the carrier has withdrawn from the system, though it hasn’t been completely removed from the awards as it is based on customer reviews.

Skytrax reviews for Etihad are lukewarm. Reviews give it a rating of 5/10, with all services maintaining a 3/5 average in terms of customer satisfaction. While it’s never received top place on the World’s Best Airlines list, it does get placed highly as one of the top airlines for First Class seats.

What customers say:

“Flown both economy and business and Etihad is my favourite. The airline offers a chauffeur to pick you up and take you to the airport. This saves lots of money on taxis. There is a bar on board and the airline uses quality materials in its pillows and seats. In business class you can adjust the firmness of your seat.” - Aston

“Even though they are both 4-star airlines, I don’t find Etihad equal to Emirates. I find the food quality and service is a little bit more special on Emirates. I do tend to find that Etihad is a fair bit cheaper than Emirates, usually making them the best option for value vs comfort.” - Sarah

Verdict: There’s high praise for Etihad overall with convenience, quality, price and staff being its greatest assets. The standard of the food seems to be where the most improvement is required.


7. Turkish Airlines

The facts: This four-star carrier has been slowly climbing up the ranks as one of the better carriers in the world. It’s never been top of the World’s Best Airlines list but in 2015 won the Best Business Class Airline Lounges and Best Business Class Lounge Dining awards. That same year it was also placed second for the Best Economy Class Catering award.

Skytrax customer reviews rate it a 5/10, with food and beverages not-surprisingly being the highlight of the flight experience.

What customers say:

“Amazing in-flight meals (by plane standards!)” - Sarah

“Not impressed. They lost my luggage and the staff didn’t care to help find it at all. Service and food was excellent, but that was for business class. The fare at the time was only $100 extra versus economy from memory.” - Sabine

Verdict: While Turkish Airlines has much to be improved with its staff service, where it shines is in its high quality food and beverage offerings.


8. EVA Air

The facts: Taiwanese carrier EVA Air was founded in 1989 and offers passenger and cargo services to over 40 international destinations. Sporting a five-star airline rating and a Skytrax customer rating of 8/10, it’s definitely a quiet achiever.

In 2015, EVA Air snuck into 10th place for World’s Best Economy Class Airlines but didn’t quite make the cut for World’s Best Business Class Airlines.

What customers say:

“The second-worst experience I've ever had with an airline; they managed to lose my business class booking TWICE! Staff were utterly indifferent. Would never fly with them again.” - Angus

Verdict: EVA Air gets the thumbs down from one unhappy passenger, though judging by the Skytrax customer reviews people are generally quite happy with the service and quality of the airline. Perhaps this inconsistency is why it just makes the cut on the awards list.


9. Qantas Airways

The facts: Australia’s flagship carrier has never been top of the list for Skytrax’s World’s Best Airline but it has for World’s Safest Airline. The four-star rated airline has been without fatality to date and has a 7/10 customer rating with Skytrax.

While Qantas’s standards remain consistent across staff, comfort and in-flight entertainment options, it lacks in its food and beverage department. It’s less regarded for its economy class than its business class, and in 2015 won 7th place for World’s Best Business Class Airlines.

What customers say:

“I've flown them across all four classes (economy, premium, business and first) and always find them friendly and the planes to be good. Qantas lounges are easily the best in the world, especially the Sydney and Melbourne international first class lounges.” - Angus

“I find Qantas one of the better national carrier airlines (definitely a lot better than British Airways!), but not worth all the hype. They tend to be rather expensive for nothing too special in-flight. Standard entertainment, food and space. Having said that, they seem to have one of the best frequent flyer programs I’ve seen and I like the Qantas lounge a lot!” - Aston

Verdict: Good but not exceptional seems to be the general consensus when it comes to Qantas. If exceptional is what you’re aiming for then flying business class or first class is the way to go.


10. Lufthansa

The facts: Lufthansa’s big claim to fame is for being the largest airline in Europe in terms of passengers and fleet size. Based out of Germany, it’s a four-star airline that offers consistent quality across its food and beverage, in-flight and staff services, all of which has no doubt helped to earn it a 7/10 customer review rating on Skytrax.

Lufthansa has never taken out first place as the World’s Best Airline, but edged into the top 10 in 2014. In 2015 it was awarded the Best First Class Airline Lounge award and came in at 5th place overall for World’s Best First Class Airlines.

What customers say:

“Terrible selection of inflight entertainment but that’s all I can remember. I slept through the rest of the flight.” - Mia

Verdict: Lufthansa might have a large fleet to its name but it still has some headway to go if it wants to be a contender as one of the world’s best.

World’s best airlines for economy class travel 2016

If you’re travelling on a budget but don’t want to sacrifice comfort, Skytrax also has a list of the best carriers for different classes. Here are the airlines dubbed the best for economy travellers this year.:

  • Asiana Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Emirates
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Etihad Airways
  • ANA All Nippon Airways
  • Garuda Indonesia

World’s best airlines for business class travel 2016

  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Etihad Airways
  • Emirates
  • ANA All Nippon Airways
  • EVA Air
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Air France
  • Lufthansa

World’s best airlines for first class travel 2016

  • Etihad Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Air France
  • ANA All Nippon Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Emirates
  • Lufthansa
  • Qatar Airways
  • Qantas Airways
  • Garuda Indonesia

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Stephanie Yip

Stef is the Travel Editor at and has been writing about travel for over a decade. She's visited over 50 countries and has had some incredible experiences, including hot air ballooning over Cappadocia, hitchhiking across Romania and seeing the Northern Lights (twice!). And while she’d never say no to a luxury escape, she's far more likely to stretch her travel dollars as far as they can go by keeping her ear to the ground for unbeatable travel bargains. And she'll tell you all about them, too! Stef has had articles featured on Travel Weekly, Escape and Hostelworld.

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