Thanks to a strong U.S. dollar and highly discounted airfares, more travelers than ever are going overseas — and discovering the joys of flying on Asia- and Middle East–based airlines. With economy cabins that offer far more amenities and comfort than many of their U.S. counterparts, these airlines score highly with our readers for their roomy seats, high-quality menus, and luxurious premium-cabin amenities. So it’s no surprise that eight out of the top 10 international airlines in this year’s World’s Best Awards hail from these regions.
Every year for the World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. In the airlines category, readers rated carriers on cabin comfort, service, food, customer service, and value.
In response to the recent travel ban on electronic devices on board U.S.-bound flights originating in the Middle East, both Emirates and Qatar Airways, which ranked Nos. 2 and 3, respectively (as they have for the past two years), found a work-around to let passengers gate-check laptops and other devices, allowing them to continue working while waiting to board the flight. It’s just one example of how they continue to deliver best-in-class customer service. And earlier this year, Qatar announced a completely new business-class cabin with double beds and quad seating, which will be rolled out this summer on select routes, with more coming later this year. “If you wish to travel in style, this is the airline to fly with,” said one reader. Added another of Qatar’s business class: “The service is impeccable, and the choice of wines, champagne, and after-dinner drinks is superb.”
Cathay Pacific Airways, which appears this year at No. 4, continues to expand service to the U.S., with more daily routes from Hong Kong to San Francisco and Boston. One reader found premium economy, which has its own discrete section, to be “a very nice surprise, with good food and excellent service.” Coming in just behind at No. 5, Japan Airlines also has a dedicated premium-economy section, offering seats that have reading lights and multiple meal services that cater to both Japanese and Western palettes. “We traveled in premium economy and were very comfortable,” wrote K. Firth. “A lovely airline with wonderful flight attendants.”
Who took top honors in this highly competitive category? A big congratulations to Singapore Airlines, the only company that has been rated No. 1 in its category for all 22 years of the World’s Best survey. Read below to see more on this brand, and the list of other international carriers that have won accolades from our readers.