AirlineRatings is out with a list of its top 20 airlines of 2020. What should we make of the list?
I always hesitate to even write about these lists, since they are so inherently arbitrary. Yet since this top-20 list has made headlines around the world, I will address it.
The AirlineRatings team included seven editors who used the following criteria to arrive at its rankings:
- Fleet age
- Passenger reviews
- Investment rating
- Product offerings
- Staff relations
And already, I have a question. Which passenger reviews? How does profitability impact whether an airline is best…it is a reminder that “best” is also arbitrary and depends upon the perspective. How are staff relations gauged? For example, Finnair treats its staff well, but its staff is striking in solidarity with Finnish postal workers. Does that count?
Even when methodologies are explained, there is no clear way to discern what is objectively better or worse. The smartest way to know which carrier to choose is to study the specific product and evaluate whether that works for you or not. That’s why I write detailed reviews. These reviews are obviously influenced my own biases, but are comprehensive enough that you can see what is offered and make your own choice.
The Top 20
That said, let’s explore the top-20 list form AirlineRatings:
- Air New Zealand
- Singapore Airlines
- All Nippon Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Virgin Atlantic
- EVA Air
- Qatar Airways
- Virgin Australia
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- British Airways
- Alaska Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Etihad Airways
In defending its choice of Air New Zealand, AirlineRatings said:
In our analysis, Air New Zealand came out number one in most of our audit criteria, which is an outstanding performance when it’s up against carriers with more resources and scale on this same list of best airlines for 2020.
Air New Zealand’s commitment to excellence in all facets of its business starts at the top with outstanding governance and one of the best executive teams in aviation through to a workforce that is delivering consistently to the airline’s strategy and customer promise.
And the safety videos?
All I can say is that the list is reasonable. There are no huge outliers that I can see.
Next year, I’ll offer my own list on Live and Let’s Fly of my top 10 carriers. My list will also be subjective, but it will be based upon only my own reviews. In that sense, you can do what you want with my list just like any other, but at least it will provide a very consistent baseline based upon passenger experience, which I think is more important to travelers than whether the airline is profitable (after all, Alitalia is bankrupt, but wonderful onboard).