A popular Australian aviation website is out with its annual rankings for the world’s top airlines in 2021. While the winner is not a surprise, some of the rankings have left me scratching my head…like ranking United Airlines the #8 airline in the world.
Top 20 Airlines In 2021? There Are Some Surprises…
Here’s the list of “top 20” airlines according to AirlineRatings.com:
- Qatar Airways
- Air New Zealand
- Singapore Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Virgin Atlantic
- United Airlines
- EVA Air
- British Airways
- Japan Air Lines (JAL)
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- Virgin Australia
- Delta Air Lines
- Etihad Airways
I concur with much of this list, but I’m still trying to figure out how United Airlines (which has not made the top 20 in years past) has suddenly eclipsed airlines like EVA, ANA, and JAL.
I get that United is operating a lot more flights. I also understand that United has a great bedding in business class, a superb route network, and is investing in new airplanes. But how did United rise so quickly so fast?
Leaping up the rankings to eighth spot in the Top Twenty is Chicago-based United Airlines which has stunned the aviation world with its huge commitments to supersonic, subsonic, and electric aircraft to rejuvenate its fleet and offer passengers the very best in comfort and eco-technology.
Hats off to the United PR team, folks. These new contracts for electric and supersonic aircraft have stirred huge amounts of (positive) media attention. It’s frankly amazing how the world “supersonic” and “electric” led to such favorable coverage across the world.
In reality, the contracts are loose and while I’m certainly not calling them purely a PR stunt, United saw great value in the style over the substance.
Finally, I know Etihad is just a shell of its former self, but #20?
The new AirlineQuality list is out. While Qatar Airways scoring first place is hardly a surprise, I was quite surprised to see United rank so high. Kudos, I guess?
What are your thoughts on the top 20 list? What is your favorite airline in 2021?
I’m missing Swiss on this list 🙁
EVA, ANA, and JAL should all be ranked a bit higher than they are. Certainly ahead of United and possibly ahead of Virgin Atlantic. Hell these days I’d put EVA ahead of Cathay Pacific.
Interesting that Swiss, SAS, and Air France are not in the top 20 at all. I’d certainly choose SAS overall over Finnair.
Also, Air New Zealand as the second best airline in the world? Ok then.
Well it does say Australian Aviation website, so I guess there is a fundamental bias towards airlines that serve Australia
Matthew — I wonder how much United paid for that ranking?
That is part of Kirby’s strategy. Wait for all the marketing material that they will launch based on this ranking. To be very honest, I have been flying Delta for 20 years and only in the past few months had to start flying United due to my new job. Delta is way superior. The overall experience cannot even be compared. As for rankings, there are many that place Harvard and Stanford as top schools in the world. Others don’t show them among the top 10. Go figure.
LOL!!!! They probably never flew United or they were added to United’s payroll. The moment I saw #8 I stopped reading it. What a joke.
You seem to hate on United at any chance you get. Fine, I get it. It’s easy to hate United. But Delta isn’t great either, especially if you value miles and are participating in a points/miles blog.
All major US airlines suck. It is just the reality. I am a lifetime Platinum with AA from flying them a lot in the early days of my career. There is nothing special about it. They devalued their Platinum status so having it for life doesn’t mean anything. I then moved to a NW hub which then became Delta so that was my only option to fly. Maybe I am an outlier or just lucky but Delta always treated me really well even when I had no status. I can see how much money they put into my local airport and it is just nice to fly from there. They also deliver a service that I don’t see in other US airlines. Their people seem genuine and seem to like their work (Delta pays huge bonuses to everyone). Planes are clean, FAs are efficient and their flights are usually on time. I was for many years a Delta360 member and was treated like king. My experience with United is new. I flew them when needed in the last 20 years and nothing impressed me. In the last 4 months I already flew 21,000 miles with United due to a new job. All domestic. My Delta Diamond status was matched to 1K. I flew 14 segments with them so far and wasn’t upgraded a single time. None!! Their flights were almost always delayed. When I approached their gate agents to see my options they were obnoxious and petulant. When trying to help them find a way to get me into another flight I was told twice “Are you trying to tell me how to do my job?” That never happened with Delta. When my incoming flight was delayed because of their lack of efficiency, I got emails saying they were holding my connection flight for me. Twice I got to the connecting gate to see the plane still there but the gate door closed. They left 8 passengers behind on a very small plane that was still sitting at the gate. I can watch live TV on all Delta flights. United has no seat entertainment. On almost all my flights it was impossible to use WiFi since it was extremely slow or wouldn’t connect at all. Add also that 2 of United’s major hubs are among the 4 worst airports in the US for flight delays (ORD and DEN). All the above in the last 4 months of flying United. What is to love about them?
@Slappy: Here is a great story of customer service from Delta that happened to me last week. I booked 4 round trip coach tickets for my family to Sao Paulo flying before Christmas (in 2021) and returning after New Year (in 2022). I called Delta and a very nice agent answered my call. I told her that I wanted to use 4 Global Upgrade Certificates from my account to upgrade the flights from the US to GRU. She promptly did it and got the upgrades to Delta One confirmed. Then she asked me: “I see you have another 4 Global Upgrade Certificates on your account, don’t you wan to use them to upgrade the return flights as well?” Well, these certificates are from before the pandemic and Delta extended their expiration date to 12/31/2021. I told the agent that unfortunately those certificates would expire before my return flight and thus I was not eligible to use them. She said: “Oh, I see. But I would hate to see you losing them. Let me make some phone calls and see what I can do.” I waited for 30 minutes on hold until she got back to me. I could feel from her voice that she had good news. “Sorry for the long wait but I had to pull many levers to get your certificates to expire after your return trip. I already used them and got your family confirmed in Delta One on all returning flights.” I had a smile on my face and could not believe that the agent went above and beyond to make that happen. She could have easily just followed the rules and said “too bad” but she did a fantastic job. How can I not like Delta?
Fair point, that is truly delighting the customer. If I were experiencing service levels like this, I would also have the halo effect for Delta as well. Happy flying!
I have had plenty of UA 1K agents change flights for me to itineraries that the system might not allow because the fare class was not available on a segment. I think DL is overrated and UA is underrated, especially if you primarily fly internationally. The relative advantage of MileagePlus over SkyPesos is fading, though.
Everyone will have a different opinion and experience. I live in a Delta hub and unless I have no option I will only fly Delta. BTW, what you described from the United agents I get all the time from Delta. It is all about two things: #1 how nice is the agent and #2 how important you are to the airline (meaning how much revenue you bring to them). I was for many years in a row a Delta360 member which is a exclusive top status with them. I used to spend over $100k/year on Delta (my company paid international business class). During that time I never paid changing fees although that was not a benefit of the status. Again, they will treat people with the same status very different based on how important you are. As a 1K member for 4 months now, my experience with United has left a lot to desire.
Haha!! Agreed, this is a terrible list.
The Top 6 seems legit. After that the list certainly raises some eyebrows. Also, where is Turkish?
This is a “One of these is not like the others” list, lol
British Airways should not be on this list.
I guess the folks who put this list together didn’t fly UA to, from, or through EWR.
Turkish/Swiss/Austrian seem like big omissions to me.
I agree with Aaron. I have flown EVA, JAL, and ANA many times and can’t see how United ranked higher. United may be ok domestically but international travel is lacking. ANA is my favorite and surprised Korean Airlines did not make the list.
lol “with its huge commitments to supersonic, subsonic, and electric aircraft to rejuvenate” So basically lip service is what they are rewarding and not an actual tangible product. AirlinerRatings.com is ran by SkyTrax. Cool
BA above ANA and JAL????????
BA is pathetic at best and my experiences on United are consistently bad. Qatar, Qantas and Singapore are the best by far. I travel on Air France when necessary but miss the Airbus 380 service on AF. JAL is disappointing and forget any airline from mainland China excluding Cathey Pacific. I do like Ethiopian Airlines for travel in Africa.
Where is Turkish Airlines? It should be near the top.
Bizarre. The fact that UA and BA rank ahead of NH and JL instantly removes all credibility from this list.
Where is Turkish?
but isn’t this just as much of a farce as skytrax?
Certainly seems that way.
What a load of nonsense. KLM? I would place the likes of Aeroflot and Oman Air much higher than them on any such list, let alone established premium carriers such as Thai, Korean (admittedly, I haven’t flown them in a while) and TK. This list is comical, if regional airlines like Alaska are included in a ‘global best’ list, we’d need to think about how they compare to Aegean, Bangkok Airways and so on.