Are These The 10 Airlines With The Best Service?

Filed Under: Media

Skytrax recently released the 2016 results for the World Airline Awards, which offer “top 10” lists in all kinds of airline categories, ranging from best service to best first class product to best airline. Here’s how Skytrax describes the selection methodology for the winners:

The survey operated online between August 2015 and May 2016, with 19.2 million customer surveys completed, across a range of survey topics, resulting in the awards for Airline of the Year, together with regional and category Best Airline Awards, across different Survey Form entry options. The Survey covers full-service and low-cost airlines.  More than 104 different nationalities participated in the customer satisfaction survey, which covered over 280 airlines, from largest international airlines to smaller domestic carriers. The surveys measure standards across 41 key performance indicators of airline front-line product and service.

The survey is based on measuring customer satisfaction for the Passenger Experience, across both Airport and Onboard environments – including check-in to boarding, onboard seat comfort, cabin cleanliness, food, beverages, IFE, staff service and associated travel items. Data weighting is applied to provide nomination equity when evaluating airlines of different size. Data weighting uses passenger numbers for airlines featured in the Survey.  Survey responses are screened to identify and monitor ISP / user information and delete duplicate and multiple entries. No financial payment or other recompense is made to any survey interviewees, and the cost of the Survey is funded totally by Skytrax.

So while I wonder about the accuracy of Skytrax’s star ratings (as does Etihad Airways), this seems to be fairly legitimate, given that the results are based on a survey.

However, I also never put too much weight into survey results, given that presumably a vast majority of people participating have a limited sample size. In other words, it’s hard to judge which airline has the best of something without having tried a significant number of them.

With that in mind, the category I found most interesting was the world’s best cabin crew category. Which airlines are ranked in the top 10 when it comes to service?

  1. Garuda Indonesia
  2. ANA All Nippon Airways
  3. Singapore Airlines
  4. Thai Airways
  5. EVA Air
  6. Qatar Airways
  7. Hainan Airlines
  8. Cathay Pacific
  9. Asiana Airlines
  10. Emirates

Those are some very interesting results. It’s not at all surprising that a majority of the airlines are from Asia. Personally I think this is a tough category to judge, since service can vary wildly flight to flight.

I haven’t flown Garuda Indonesia, though I’ve heard amazing things, so I can see why they scored first place.


As far as ANA goes, of course Japanese airlines have great service, though I’m shocked to see them ranked number two, while JAL doesn’t even make the list.


Singapore Airlines definitely deserves their spot.


I’m surprised to see Thai Airways rank so high. While I’ve always found their staff to be quite friendly and hospitable, I’ve also found them to not be quite as polished as the crews on some other top airlines.


As much as I love the Gulf carriers, I’m a bit surprised to see Emirates and Qatar in the top 10, and especially to see Qatar ahead of Emirates. I find service on Qatar to be rather forced, as good service is provided more out of a fear of being fired than a cultural desire to be hospitable.


Cathay Pacific deserves their spot in my opinion, as they generally offer very consistent and attentive service.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777 - 27

Are you surprised by any of the airlines ranked in the top 10 for their cabin crew? Are there any other airlines that deserve to be ranked?

  1. “I find service on Qatar to be rather forced, as good service is provided more out of a fear of being fired than a cultural desire to be hospitable.”

    Lol. You’re being appropriately blunt right there.

    Maybe we all should try Garuda Indonesia.

  2. My personal rankings would be LH first then ANA, JL, Thai, SQ, CX. To be blunt service depends on whether you are white or not

  3. That link says nothing about how the survey was conducted: what was the distribution method, how was the passenger data collected, did it include all carriers and routes? It’s very thin on detail.

  4. I flew Garuda in economy last year and was very impressed (HKG-DPS). Every FA were attentive, smiley and answered quickly to any demand. There was also a FA who sprayed the lavatory after each usage and made sure it was clean. I haven’t flown all of the listed airlines, but I think they deserved the #1 spot. The food was another story, though I liked the pandan leaf flavored nut mix 🙂

    On the same trip, I flew Singapore (SIN-HND) and it was a big deception for service. Everything else was fine, but nobody seemed to care. FA stayed in the galley almost the entire flight. Food and drink service was rushed and uninterested.

    Of course, n=1…

    Don’t forget the surveys are mostly filled by people flying the economy cabins…

  5. I flew Emrities business for the first time on two flights and thought service was very cold. On the second flight they completely forgot to take my meal order. I said something when they were setting up my eating table. Was not impressed with the service overall. Hard product was good but not the service.

    Love Cathay, Singapore, and China Airlines.

  6. There is one aspect you may not be considering. As an Indian when I fly many of the airlines I notice that some of them behave differently towards whites vs non whites. Singapore Airlines in particular seems more attentive towards white people, I’ve seen this on a number of occasions. It used to be uncommon to see non white people in Business and First Class about 10-15 years ago. Now you see its different since you have a lot more Asians travelling in Business and First and yet some airlines seem to continue that kind of discrimination.

    So when I read glowing reviews I have to take it with a grain of salt if the reviewer is white. Same is true for hotels as well. The reason why you may be surprised at the skytrak ratings is because the people voting are also non white and they are voting what they experience on these Airlines. I’ve found that Emirates and Qatar while seemingly more forced service, at least they provide that same level to every customer and hence were in the top 10.

    The other aspect is food, there are a lot of Indians who travel to India and other countries and choice of food on some airlines is terrible to them because they don’t eat beef or pork in many instances and many are vegetarian, so flying on Cathay Pacific, or even Singapore Airlines the food does not compare to what is served on Emirates or Qatar since they take the culinary preferences of Indians into account and not ignore them like Cathay or Singapore Airlines.

    I was at the Business class lounge for SIA in Singapore in June and could hardly find anything that I could eat unlike Emirates where there is an abundance of food that I can eat.

  7. Having recently flown on Cathay First from Paris to Hong Kong I really do not understand why they rank so high. Etihad First service was flawless, yet Cathay flight attendant would bring you the caviar but forget about champaign for several minutes, and bring the steak and forget about the red wine for another few minutes. Unbelievable.

  8. Indian hobbyist living in Singapore here. Have to agree with some of the comments above (especially Srini) about service varying wildly by race of the customer, but I’ve found this especially true on Emirates. Etihad on the other hand was much better and consistent, though in Y class, EY is just too far behind the best.

    What’s sad is that even in J or F class, the service can be terrible. I’ve been skipped over for champagne refills, had FAs snap at me for requests and just generally be less friendly than to my co-passengers of fairer skin tones.

    That said, SQ and CX still have pretty high quality service. Garuda has high service standards on average but not exceptional. I personally think Lufthansa and Swiss deserve to be on there.

  9. Flew Cathay Business through the week and they don’t deserve a top 10 ranking. Product was just so/so, as was the onboard service. Was actually quite disappointed. Only real saving grace was the exceptional new Pier Lounge at Hong Kong Airport.
    And I agree with your thoughts on Thai. Not in the same class as the others.
    You should try and fly Royal Brunei if you get the chance. Their business class product from Melbourne through to London on the Dreamliner is excellent.

  10. JAL should be in the top 3 IMO, honestly I’m surprised Emirates is on the list, they do a lot of things well..but generally warm service isn’t one of them from my experience.

  11. “It’s not at all surprising that a majority of the airlines are from Asia.”
    Technically speaking, all airlines on this list are based in Asian countries.

  12. While you’ve reviewed Japan Airlines first and business class numerous times, you haven’t posted any recent reviews of ANA first class or business class. I’d welcome an ANA first class review so you can compare it to Japan Airlines.

  13. Where is Lufthansa? So consistent, professional, efficient and in general friendly!!! My #1 on al flights to the Americas.

  14. After having now experienced JAL in all three cabins I too am surprised that they aren’t in the top 10! They were flawless in every way – could I have been extraordinarily lucky? In comparison I found Cathay to be slightly above acceptable in J or even F. I even walked out of the Pier in HKG because staff were unfriendly (I ended up enjoying the Qantas lounge instead where they were welcoming and had better food anyway).

  15. Well, these are Skytrax ratings. Take with a ton of salt. Also these are editor ratings not user ratings.

  16. I’ve noticed several comments regarding race, indicating that somehow if you are white you get better service. I find the idea that Asian or middle eastern FA’s are biased towards whites somewhat objectionable. Speaking as an evil white male, my perspective is that you reap what you sow. You get better service from FAs if you are friendly and respectful in return, regardless of your race. Perhaps it is a cultural thing, but I’ve seen many Indians and Asians treat FA’s disrespectfully, dismissively and coldly, so maybe that is a contributing factor.

    I agree with the high ranking for ANA, FAs are super friendly and attentive, but not annoyingly so.

  17. Virgin Atlantic would be up there in my opinion. Great service pre boarding/and on board

  18. showed this to the better half who is a Chief Purser with ANA and she laughed and said really? We fly revenue on JAL all the time. simple reason, ANA FA’s talk so much sh*t behind your back about pax she doesnt want to be another one.. even as an employee. and she said people would FREAK at what goes on in the galley. being said, it IS Skytraxx. Which she acknowledges is too political.

  19. I flew Singapore a few times in business and economy.. Both flights were great. The economy flight was 45 minutes and they still served a meal whereas the 5 hour business class I took on delta 2 weeks ago served chips and crackers. I was always treated very well by the FAs and I am asian. So unlike the other commenters I had no issues. Maybe it’s not asians in general but Indians. I have also flown jal in business and their service is fantastic even if their FAs don’t have the best English. They make it work and I appreciate their efforts.

  20. Really surprised at the white vs non white service comments. (A couple are way over the line)I am Indian my partner is white and we haven’t noticed any difference in treatment on airlines. (Hotels in Hong Kong both RC and FS however are a different matter). In the etihad first lounge we had an amazing service experience while a very rude man (who was Indian) was treated as he should have been. – sternly. So much depends on how you treat the staff. A smile, general politeness and dressing up a bit don’t hurt.
    Cathay business has spotty service so I don’t think they deserve the ranking. Thai is “friendly” but unpolished. So much on service is subject to individual crew that it is hard to believe the rankings. Qatar business was far too frantic and the crew seemed almost afraid we would complain that I found in uncomfortable to watch.
    Oddly the friendliest service I ever experienced was when My family flew BA business from London to India.

  21. What is really missing on this list is Air New Zealand. Sure, their crew may not be that polished, but they are so friendly and you can tell it’s genuine. I’ve flown them 5 times (both international and domestic) and every flight was so much fun because the crew just really wanted to make your flight enjoyable. I value genuine and caring service over more polished, stuck up and predictable service that you get on some of the carriers on this list (CX, SQ, QR, etc.).

  22. As others have said, it’s unwise to put much faith in Skytrax’s rating (airlines that shun their “consultancy” services tend to be ranked poorly), and the survey data they use is heavily, heavily, skewed to Economy fliers (so reflects views at the back of the aircraft).

    I really don’t get Lucky’s putdowns on Qatar crews, especially since it’s an airline he has flown only a few times compared to the bulk of his flights on other airlines. I’ve flown Qatar quite a bit, and I find the service decent to good, and no-one cringing or walking on eggshells (though I haven’t flown them in Economy, but I wouldn’t think that cabin would be any different in that respect).

    I agree with mckou0621, Air New Zealand cabin crew tend to genuinely friendly (again, my experience is not in Economy, but I imagine it’s not too different). However some of their ground staff can be surly and unplesant.

    I’d also agree that ANA First cabin crew are very attentive and service oriented.

  23. I dislike Qatar’s service in Economy (haven’t flown them in Business or First Class) and I agree that they feel forced.

    I can understand Thai Airways ranking highly if the results are skewed towards economy (which they should be according to their methodology). In economy, the fact that the service is less polished doesn’t matter as much but friendliness and hospitality are really important there.

    I’m also surprised by the JAL omission but I’ve never flown them in economy, only business (they were great).

    Regarding racial profiling, my wife is Asian while I’m white and yes I often get treated better just because I’m white. We’ve noticed that this is especially true when she’s traveling alone.

  24. Air New Zealand may well be fantastic, but far more people fly the airlines that made the list. More passengers = more placement. Unfortunate but unavoidable.

  25. i am not surprised ANA made it and JAL didn’t. i’ve flown both, in F twice each and many times in Y, and i was not impressed with JAL’s service. they just didnt give me the warm and fussy feeling that ANA did.

  26. The Skytrax survey is just a BIG lie…. Any one can fill the online form, even without having travelled….. In other words, it’s easy for some airlines to pay people to fill the form, ineventing they have travelled with it… with no proof……

  27. I flew Cathay, Qatar, and Etihad this year so far, and I think that I had the best experience with Etihad. I suppose that makes sense since the Cathay and Qatar were on planes with no first class cabin. My sister flew economy on ANA from NRT to IAH and said it was the best economy flight she has had.

  28. I dont mind with the order. Some of my favourites made lists: ANA Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Qatar, Cathay, and of course Garuda(my country!!). But I wounder why Japan Airways and Korean Air excluded. They are very good couldnt be just represented by ANA and Asiana because they are better than Hainan and Thai Airways in service category, I guessed. Qatar and Emirates are discipline and friendly enough to get the spot although service isn’t a strong part from them but their service as a beautiful cover / finishing touch from their product.

  29. To all those pushing LH for the Top 10, does that include the pomegranate sauce that was spilled on me during meal service in the front of the plane? Does that include the 25 euro duty free coupon? Does that include the non-responsive ground staff? Maybe LH for the Bottom 10 in my book.

  30. If I summarize above comments.

    Every carrier treats Caucasians better
    Oriental/South East Asian/Middle Eastern carriers treat their own passengers better
    Every carrier (including Indian carriers) treat Indians badly

    Did I get it wrong???

  31. I am surprised not to see JAL on the list. My recent experience of their service in JAL First was nothing but perfection. SQ in my opinion has great service but it really is robotic and ‘forced’.

  32. Sky Trax is line a vending machine. Enter money get treat. On the topic of ethnicity, my wife is Indian and anyways dresses in beautiful traditional clothing in public. As a result she gets noticed and treated very well on our journeys while I kind of feel like the tag along baggage.

  33. Allow me to offer two bits of insights:

    First, Garuda has incredible flight attendants…as long as they can understand you, and vice versa. I was on a flight from Japan to Bali once and while the service was great, if they can’t understand your question, they simply just pretend “oh, we do not have that item” or “we are out of it”. When clearly they just didn’t understand your question in English (and no I do not speak Bahasa)

    Second: JAL not being ranked: again, I think this might be a cultural and language barrier issue. JAL likes to outsource a lot of their Cabin Attendants from south east Asia, where neither English nor Japanese is spoken commonly. So this leads to some inconsistencies in your service based on where your attendant is from and what your language might be. On board hard product is on par if not better than ANA but the service, food and wine/beverage selection doesn’t quite match up to ANA. Perhaps they still have some restrictions budget wise as they received a bailout/went bankrupt a few years ago.

  34. I always take Skytrax rankings with more then a pinch of salt . Emirates being airline of the year seems questionable at best given that they are not among the top 3 airlines in any cabin and ironically are highest ranked in business class where I believe they are the weakest- over 50% of their fleet lack a fully flat seat- and have a middle seat which is completely unacceptable for a full-service long-haul carrier today. The softer aspects of Emirates too are way behind many Asian and off-late even European carriers. Coming back to cabin service- I have not flown Garuda so cant say much about them except that everyone who has flown them is raving about them so its probably deserved.

    I am not a huge fan of Japanese carrier’s service which although superlatively attentive lacks character, efficiency or flexibility- there are some people who love the attentiveness although I am surprised why JAL was excluded. I believe Singapore Airlines and Etihad Airways deserve to be there instead- the latter is particularly flexible in business and first while SQ has the best economy service I have witnessed across carriers. Qatar’s service too seems forced and is variable- sometimes it is truly exceptional but again lacks character. It deserves to be in the top 10 however.

    Emirates offers a fairly run of the mill assembly line service across all classes apart from first mainly due to the pressures on the crew in terms of passenger numbers. It probably may just break number 10 at best.

    While, I felt that CX offered the best inflight service till a few years ago balancing attentiveness, character and efficiency I feel they have slipped far back. Their service in business class lacks any kind of flexibility or charm and feels robotic and economy like. In economy their service now has become inferior to many European carriers. I dont think they deserve to be in the top 10 at all. Thai also seems overrated.

    Some carriers whom I thought were missing from the list- Etihad (hands down best service among ME3 carriers in business and economy), Virgin Atlantic (excellent service in all classes), KLM (super friendly and efficient in all classes), JAL, Asiana and Korean.

  35. I’m very surprised SQ didn’t take out the top gong, or at least the runner-up spot. Kudos to GA.

  36. Happy to see a lot of positive comments about JAL – will be flying NRT-ORD next month in biz.

    TripAdvisor has just launched airline reviews. Those are transparent and look forward to seeing their awards.

  38. I’m surprised Swiss did not make the list, they have incredible service in F and C, I guess it just down to them being such a small airline.

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