In Survey of World Airlines, U.S. Carriers Lag

Another day, another best-airline survey. This one, though, has more credibility than most.

At this week’s Paris Air Show, airline-rating service Skytrax announced the results of its 2017 World Airline Survey, rating more than 200 of the world’s airlines from best to worst. The rankings were based on responses to 19.9 million customer surveys.

Skytrax boasts that it uses sophisticated data-weighting algorithms to compensate for different sample sizes, and has fraud-detection mechanisms in place to maintain the results’ legitimacy. And the research is not funded by any of the ranked companies.

Still, although the survey is clearly more rigorous than most, there are questions about its methodology. It’s not clear, for example, how much weight is given to the various factors that, taken together, give an airline its overall score. Full transparency is reserved for airline executives, who presumably pay for privileged access to the full survey results.

The top-20 airlines, according to the latest survey:

  1. Qatar Airways
  2. Singapore Airlines
  3. ANA All Nippon Airways
  4. Emirates
  5. Cathay Pacific
  6. EVA Air
  7. Lufthansa
  8. Etihad Airways
  9. Hainan Airlines
  10. Garuda Indonesia
  11. Thai Airways
  12. Turkish Airlines
  13. Virgin Australia
  14. Swiss
  15. Qantas Airways
  16. Japan Airlines
  17. Austrian
  18. Air France
  19. Air New Zealand
  20. Asiana Airlines

Given Skytrax’s global focus, it shouldn’t be any surprise that U.S. and Canadian carriers fared badly. None were among the top 20. Ranked among themselves, the top-10 North American carriers were as follows:

  1. Air Canada (29th overall)
  2. Delta (32nd
  3. Alaska (36th)
  4. JetBlue (39th)
  5. Virgin America (43rd)
  6. Southwest (54th)
  7. Porter (55th)
  8. WestJet (58th)
  9. Air Transat (70th)
  10. American (74th)

And in case you were wondering, at the very bottom of the 100-airline list is Aeromexico, which received five stars in the Skytrax rating system, which awards a maximum of 10 stars.

Reader Reality Check

How do the Skytrax results compare with your own assessment of the world’s best airlines?

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.

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