World's Best Airlines for Customer Service 2015
The business of flight is notoriously tough: airplane employees have to transport, entertain, and serve passengers—who are essentially captive in a giant tin cylinder hurtling through the sky—for sometimes more than a dozen hours straight. There are no pit-stops, no roadside attractive, and, for most travelers, no choice. When it comes to overseas transportation, options are typically limited.
Related: World's Top Airlines
Some carriers, however, have eschewed the notion that airplanes should be little more than oversized buses in the air. Instead, they're focusing on creating memorable (even desirable) customer experiences. Take Singapore Airlines, for example, which swept all the No. 1 categories in this year's Worlds Best survey. Readers have applauded the airline for its food, value, and service: customer service and in-flight service.
From friendly assistance on the ground to doting flight attendants en route, the World's Best airlines have perfected the art of keeping passengers happy from the second they purchase their ticket until they land in their final destination. After all, when you're cruising at 30,000 feet, even the smallest details can make all the difference.
The next time you fly, keep an eye out for a chance to travel with one of these T+L reader-approved airlines. They're guaranteed to make the whole "strapped to a piece of metal hurtling through the clouds" a better experience than you ever expected.
No. 25: Icelandair, International
“The service, both on the ground and in the air,” remembered one T+L voter, “was excellent.” Flight attendants were praised as helpful, proactive and friendly. Four of them even adopted adorable husky pups after a sled dog named Pepper gave birth right before takeoff on a flight from Seattle to Stockholm. Customer service for people and pets? Major gold stars all around.
No. 24: British Airways, International
An English carrier with a reputation for attentive, accommodating, and polite employees is now taking their customer service one step further. This year, they began offering “Mindfulness Programming” to help calm nervous passengers. A partnership with San Fran’s Mindfulness Institute has created everything from in-flight, soothing playlists to videos helping travelers to stay calm from boarding through takeoff and the final descent.
No. 23: Alaska Airlines, Domestic
According to one World’s Best voter, Alaska Airlines is “the best domestic airline, by far.” Another agreed, saying their customer service is “top notch—they listen and help travelers when there is a problem.” To make the entire travel experience easier, Alaska Airlines is beginning to test biometric fingerprints in place of boarding passes. The futuristic result? Easier, faster security and boarding.
No. 22: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, International
KLM Royal Dutch doesn’t just provide excellent service to their customers. As they proved in 2014 with their #happytohelp campaign, this airline is ready to aid anyone in need of assistance. For an entire week, 250 KLM employees, ranging from customer service agents to corporate communications personnel, answered the tweets and Facebook messages of anyone passing through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport—even those flying with competitors. From helping honeymooners catch their flight to taking kids shopping in the terminal, KLM is determined to be the most helpful airline in the world.
No. 21: Air Tahiti Nui, International
Small, but effective. “[Air Tahiti] really takes care of its passengers,” said one voter, “by listening to their needs and trying to fulfill them.” In the recently refreshed Poerava Business Class, guests find tropical blue seats set with fresh frangipani, or Tahitian gardenias, and custom-designed cushions boasting vivid green palm prints and a design style inspired by Tahitian handicrafts. Onboard hospitality is laidback and casual: not unlike the island itself.
No. 20: Turkish Airlines, International
Turkey’s national flag carrier has a reputation for exemplary service. Every detail, from the richly spiced Turkish fare served onboard to the USB and Ethernet outlets at every seat (including economy), is designed with passenger satisfaction in mind. Business Class passengers have the added pleasure of Ottoman and Seljuq-inspired serveware, traditional Turkish soup service, and flying chefs: professionals who assist the cabin crew with meal preparation and presentation.
No. 19: Southwest Airlines, Domestic
“Customer service with Southwest is always helpful and courteous,” said one World’s Best voter. This Dallas-based airline knows it’s the little things that impact customer experience. For example, on Thanksgiving flyers receive a free drink “along with a helping of Southwest Hospitality,” said a Southwest representative. After all, the airline itself claims to be a customer service company “that happens to fly airplanes.” Social media is the carrier’s specialty, and they regularly launch entertaining safety videos and campaigns.
No. 18: Lufthansa, International
Employee strikes aside, Lufthansa continues to improve its in-flight offerings, most recently with its new Premium Economy class. In this new designation, travelers can enjoy 50 percent more legroom than in economy, as well as a welcome cocktail, and a personal amenity kit. We think the real perks, however, are those kindly acts of convenience: double free baggage allowance, a water bottle awaiting your arrival at your seat, and a personal power outlet so you can end your trip just as charged up as when you started.
No. 17: JetBlue Airways, Domestic
Sometimes, our World’s Best survey takers give us true insight into how the most successful brands stand apart from the pack. One reader’s story was particularly touching. “I am a double amputee from the Boston Marathon bombings, and [I have] a very large service/mobility dog. [During] my first couple of flights, I ran into problems because of needing the extra seating to accommodate my dog. One of the top managers at Logan Airport for JetBlue gave me his personal cell number. He takes care of the seating issues EVERY time I fly. That is going above and beyond.” Talk about customer service.
No. 16: Asiana Airlines, International
In-flight service aboard Asiana is indiciative of Asia's famous culture of hospitality. Highlights include their Happy Mom Service—a custom in-flight baby meal, bassinets, and priority boarding are some of the perks awarded to new moms. Also of note is their menu of authentic Korean dishes: hearty, nutritious fare such as ssambap, offered to flyers in all classes.
No. 15: Hawaiian Airlines, Domestic
“True Hawaiian spirit the moment you get on-board,” said one happy traveler of Hawaiian Airlines in the World’s Best survey. Travelers can pick omiyage (gifts) for friends back home—or themselves—from the roving Pau Hana Cart in the aisle (caramel macadamia popcorn, furikake chips seasoned with seaweed, bonito, sesame, and taro chips are a few highlights). “As an airline so deep-rooted in the island’s culture,” explained a Hawaiian Airlines representative, “flight attendants are known to take passengers on a visual tour of the islands during takeoff and landing, pointing out famous sites.”
No. 14: Swiss, International
One T+L reader thought their trip on Swiss was very typical. “Like all things Swiss, it is at the high-end in all aspects of the service, including price.” Choice is the hallmark of Swiss service, and it begins before you even book your flight. Now, you can hold a reservation for up to 72 hours, pre-order your duty-free goodies, and even arrange surprise for a special passenger onboard (champagne or Swiss chocolate truffles, of course).
No. 13: Japan Airlines, International
Thanks in part to a spacious economy seat, Japan’s flag carrier pleases passengers at every point. Even in this efficiency-driven market, which has stripped many airlines of pretty much ever comfort except free water, Japan Airlines still provides helpful amenities to coach-class travelers: an amenity kit with earplugs and a toothbrush, and a green bamboo massage stick for sore feet, upon request.
No. 12: Virgin Australia, International
Behind the scenes, Virgin Australia is making sure every detail of your flight is going as smoothly as possible, thanks to a model that puts social media agents and operations control right next to one another. Updates from customers, and from the airline to the customer, are happening in real time. In the air, the service continues to be on point. The line recently introduced "The Business," which turns around any preconceived notions you may have about business class. A fully lie-flat bed, a 16-inch TV screen, and ambient mood lighting are a few of the perks.
No. 11: Virgin America, Domestic
Virgin America's guest relations teammates have the power to do what it takes to make customers happy. "[They're] passionate," a representative told T+L, "and empowered with few limitations to make their own decisions when it comes to handling inquiries." In an attempt to create "wow" for guests, Virgin America gets personal. If they know you're flying on your birthday, you may find yourself with a bottle of champagne awaiting your arrival. A football fan may find themselves with a bit of Giants swag. "We once had a guest onboard who was having trouble purchasing a menu item," said representative Jennifer Thomas. He tweeted, and the operations center messaged the flight crew directly. "An inflight teammate delivered a sandwich straight to the guest." The Virgin America crew has even helped coordinate wedding proposals.
No. 10: Qantas Airways, International
“I love Qantas," raved one T+L reader. "The crew is always attentive and professional, but still friendly." That accomodating disposition spills over from the aircraft, where children are given treats and activity kits to pass the time, to the domestic lounges outfitted with special Family Zones. Sony Playstations, iMacs, children's furniture, and toys are just a few of the perks. Unique, kid-friendly refreshments are also served.
No. 9: Korean Air, International
A new Economy Class has enhanced the Korean Air experience even at the most affordable level. Slimmer, 18-inch wide seats boast a 118-degree recline, and HD screens have been stretched to an impressive 10.6-inches. You can select your seat as early as 24 hours in advance, and flight attendants are happy to offer wake-up calls to travelers looking to keep on schedule even in the air.
No. 8: All Nippon Airways, International
All Nippon scores major points for listening to travelers: the airline recently introduced a new menu with meals voted on by customers via Facebook, Twitter, Sina Weibo. Winners include rice ball bento and simmered yellowtail over steamed rice. Snacks, such as arare rice crackers, are help-yourself, and thirsty travelers can enjoy traditional aromatic kabosu, made from an indigenious green citrus fruit from Oita, Japan.
No. 7: Virgin Atlantic, International
Small acts of empathy and kindness can make a big impression on travelers. "One time there was some turbulence, and a passenger near me was afraid," remembered one reviewer on his or her World's Best survey. "A flight attendant sat with her the whole time there was rough air, to help her get through it. That was really special, and not something any flight attendant [would do]. Bravo, Virgin Atlantic!"
No. 6: Qatar Airways, International
This Middle Eastern carrier attends to each detail of service meticulously. On a flight to or from Doha, for example, you may be sipping a wine selected exclusively for Qatar by the airline's designated wine sommelier, James Cluer. He's even gone to Mt. Everest base camp and scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro to sip his picks at cruising altitude to make sure they taste just as divine at 30,000-feet as they do at sea level.
No. 5: Thai Airways, International
Thailand's flagship carrier aims to keep passengers grinning all the way to the Land of Smiles and back. Colorful, jewel-toned seats and flavorful, Asian cuisine help, but the airline doesn't stop there. Thai Airways is proud to offer toys (namely, model airplanes) to children on-board their aircraft. The carrier boasts a cabin crew specially trained to help entertain and appease their youngest flyers.
No. 4: Cathay Pacific Airways, International
“We felt special from the moment we arrived at the airport lounge. We were greeted by our names upon entering the airplane and for the next 15-hour, [we] were treated like royalty. It was luxurious and so relaxing. The flight crew is perfect in every way, from attire, to attitude, to service!" Clearly, one World's Best voter enjoyed their time en route with Cathay Pacific. Such high remarks are hardly a surprise—there are perks at every level. In Economy, travelers have a coat hook, a modern storage space for all their gadgets (and the power supply to charge them up), and a cup holder than can be accessed without lowering the tray table. Thoughtful, right?
No. 3: Air New Zealand, International
“I love flying Air New Zealand,” said one T+L reader. “There is an almost cozy feeling when the doors close—their staff on the ground and in the air is always friendly and helpful.” A decidedly quirky attitude has done well for the Kiwi carrier. Highlight in service include hilarious in-flight safety videos (starring Betty White and Richard Simmons, of course) the convertible Skycouch seating option in Economy, and Business Premier Class amenity kits stuffed with Pippi Longstocking-style striped socks and eye masks that warn: “Beware, I sleep walk.”
No. 2: Emirates, International
By now, you've probably heard about Emirates' insanely large plane. But more importantly, have you heard about the Emirates expierence? For upper-class passengers, there's an endless supply of bubbly, and free haircuts or spa treatments in the lounge. First Class and Business Class flyers can enjoy complimentary chauffeur services to and from the airport, meaning that royal feeling doesn't wear off until you get home. Not that the airline has forgotten about its economy class travelers: the airline is known for having some of the largest screens, on one of the newest fleets in the sky.
No. 1: Singapore Airlines, International
Singapore Airlines is known for a lot of things, including its gourmet cuisine, served on Wedgewood china in First and Business Class, and hand-stitched leather armchairs in Suites designed by Poltrona Frau. But perhaps nothing about Singapore Airlines is more iconic than its Singapore Girl—the airlines flight attendants (yes, some are guys), who are known to uphold near-impossible standards. In addition to airline-approved buns and chignons, the Girls and Guys are skilled in handling difficult passengers with dignity and poise. Along with the traditional sarong kebaya, flight attendants repeat—every morning—the company song, which begins, "[We] pledge to excel in delighting passengers with our passion for service." Talk about committment.