By Paul Brady
July 08, 2020
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This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

The best international airlines in the world seem to pull off the nearly impossible: they not only connect travelers with some of the coolest destinations on the planet but also do it with the grace and panache that guests find at some of the world’s best hotels. While Travel + Leisure readers loved the premium cabins that these airlines offer on ultra-long-haul flights, they also had praise for the service, and even the economy-class seats, of these winners.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L 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.

Coming in at No. 2, Qatar Airways has “the most comfortable business class in the world,” said one voter. Others agreed that the Qsuites, Qatar’s innovative business-class product, was among the best. But those at the back of the plane needn’t miss out on Qatar’s excellence: “Economy-class seats with a first-class feel,” said one reader. With the broad route network and the exceptional lounges at the Doha hub, it’s little surprise that one voter raved, “I cannot wait to fly with Qatar again.”

Courtesy of Singapore Airlines

Other top-ranked carriers were similarly beloved by readers. Emirates, which ranked No. 2 last year, came in third in this year’s voting. “Fabulous service, excellent and friendly attendants, good choices on the menu,” wrote one fan. “They provide many nice little extras, and the seats are very comfortable.” Many others took note of the superior service that Emirates offers, as well as the Dubai-based carrier’s extensive selection of destinations.

Also highly ranked this year was Eva Air, the Taipei-based company that has flights to six U.S. cities. The No. 4 airline moved up one spot from last year, as readers praised Eva’s service, food, and premium economy seats. One had even better things to say about sitting up front: “My business class trip from Chicago to Taipei was the best airline experience I’ve ever had. Steak cooked to order, hot food options between mealtimes, plush down comforters, and tons of legroom. Some business-class seats have a very narrow spot for your feet when the seat is laying flat, but Eva’s seats had enough space for rolling over and getting a great night of sleep.”

Still, no carrier impressed quite like category heavyweight Singapore Airlines, which is the sole winner to top its category for all 25 years of the World’s Best Awards. Below, a few reasons why — plus the full list of the best international airlines, as voted by T+L readers.

1. Singapore Airlines

Getty Images

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 90.84

More information: singaporeair.com

The top international carrier is once again Singapore Airlines, which has won the No. 1 spot in each of the past 25 years. “The best airline I’ve ever traveled with,” said one voter. “Sets the standard for a premium travel experience,” agreed another reader. Among the many aspects of Singapore Airlines flights that readers specifically praised was the food. It makes sense: the carrier has not just one chef setting menus but an International Culinary Panel of seven luminaries who help devise the dishes served on board. Over and over readers mentioned the flight crews and the quality of business-class and premium-economy seats. “There’s a reason this airline is always at the top of the list,” said one reader. “They just do it right.”

2. Qatar Airways

Courtesy of Qatar Airways

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 89.88

More information: qatarairways.com

3. Emirates

Courtesy of Emirates

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 87.43

More information: emirates.com

4. Eva Air

Courtesy of EVA Air

Score: 85.67

More information: evaair.com

5. All Nippon Airways (ANA)

Courtesy of ANA

Score: 84.98

More information: fly-ana.com

6. Air New Zealand

Courtesy of Air New Zealand

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 84.95

More information: airnewzealand.com

7. Japan Airlines (JAL)

Courtesy of Japan Airlines

Score: 84.56

More information: jal.co.jp

8. La Compagnie

Courtesy of La Compagnie

Score: 84.39

More information: lacompagnie.com

9. Cathay Pacific Airways

Courtesy of Cathay Pacific Airways

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 84.30

More information: cathaypacific.com

10. Virgin Atlantic Airways

Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

Score: 84.28

More information: virginatlantic.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.