Decades ago, flying was an incredible privilege. Travelers would don their sharpest duds and dine on real, non-plastic glassware. Boarding the plane meant settling into cushy—and dare we say it: spacious—seats for a few hours of relaxation, bubbly, and spectacular views of the world 30,000 feet below.
The World’s Best airlines, as selected by our readers, are fighting to bring back the Golden Age of air travel. Instead of cutting corners (read: leg room) they’re rolling out 82-inch-long beds fitted with natural mattresses and custom Italian linens. Instead of charging for that depressing bag of salted peanuts, they’re presenting a la carte menus designed by Michelin-starred chefs. Even in economy, passengers enjoy in-flight entertainment on HD-enabled screens while juicing up their devices via personal USB chargers.
This year, 39 airlines were ranked based on cabin comfort, in-flight service, customer service, value, and food. No one was surprised to see Singapore Airlines in the No. 1 international spot this year. That’s where it always is. In fact, Asia-based airlines repeatedly get high scores on our annual survey, and there are five in this year’s top 10. But the big story is the resurgence of carriers from Down Under.
Air New Zealand (the quirky carrier with innovative features like the convertible Sky Couch, viral safety videos starring icons like Richard Simmons, and amenity kits stuffed with “Beware, I sleep walk,” eye masks) leapt five spots since last year. And for the first time since 2007, Qantas appeared on our list.
As our World’s Best Airlines prove, relatively small creature comforts—in-flight Wi-Fi, seats that recline without disturbing neighbors—are being noticed by flyers. Plus, at the end of the day, genuine and helpful customer service, both on the ground and in the air, is crucial to getting top customer scores.
Competition for your miles is more rigorous than ever before, and these airlines are out to prove that they can, and will, give you something to look forward to on your next long-haul flight.