World’s Best Airlines for In-Flight Service 2015
As much as we grumble about flight delays and lost luggage, we have to admit—keeping travelers happy during long flights in cramped quarters is pretty tricky business: and some airlines don't do so well.
Every year, in the annual World’s Best Awards survey, we ask readers to rate airlines in a number of different categories, ranging from value to the quality of their loyalty programs. And every year, certain carriers soar above the others.
When it comes to in-flight service (everything from how the flight attendants greet you to how good the entertainment system is) Travel + Leisure’s readers felt strongly about the airlines that performed the best.
“This is how flying should be done,” reported one pleased passenger. “Cathay Pacific has excellent service—other airlines should pay attention.”
Related: World's Top Airlines
Though these days it often feels like good service only comes with the highest-priced seats, some airlines were even congratulated for making every traveler (even those in the “cheap seats”) feel special.
“Even if I’m not flying first class, I always felt that I was,” said one WBA voter about British Airways. No surprise: royal treatment does not go unnoticed. And—airlines take note—cheerful, helpful flight attendants were able to turn long, turbulent, or otherwise unsatisfactory flights into pleasant experiences.
From comforting crying babies to entertaining guests at a full cocktail bar, the best airlines in the world have perfected their in-flight service plans.
No. 20: Hawaiian Airlines, Domestic
Hawaiian received praise from T+L readers for giving “an advance taste of the spirit of aloha” as soon as passengers board the plane from the mainland. Another commenter said “they make you feel like you’re in Hawaii before you even get there.”
No. 19: British Airways, International
T+L readers had many nice things to say about British Airways, especially those flying business class. One individual who traveled from London to Cape Town said the crew “went above and beyond to accommodate guests” and noted that “there was a baby on board and the crew did everything to appease the baby.” This year, the carrier introduced mindfulness programming, including videos, therapeutic playlists, and more to help anxious flyers overcome their fears and relax onboard.
No.18: Virgin Australia, International
Virgin Airlines has a reputation for treating passengers well, and the Australian division is no exception. Besides comfortable seats and mood lighting, one T+L reader explained, “they give you a water bottle that can be refilled with a water fountain,” meaning passengers can cut down on waste and don’t have to wait for a flight attendant to help them. Sometimes, self-service is the best kind.
No. 17: Lufthansa, International
This German airline is known for its efficiency, but that’s not its only strong suit. “They really make their customers feel like a priority to them,” one T+L reader said, citing the way the airline seats families with small children together and provides bassinets and travel packs for kids. Another individual observed that, “they go out of their way to keep you occupied for the long-haul flights—movies, games, and eating all the time.”
No. 16: Asiana Airlines, International
This Korean airline is known for its extremely polite flight attendants—one T+L reader praised the “gracious hostesses” while another declared them “the best flight attendants.” The airline offers some in-flight perks too, like latte-art demonstrations, a sommelier, and cocktails in first and business class.
No. 15: Air Tahiti Nui, International
For a small airline, Air Tahiti Nui does a great job of connecting people from around the world to French Polynesia, Bora Bora, and other remote South Pacific islands. One T+L reader said, “everything about the flight exceeded my expectations.” New in-flight entertainment systems include HD touchscreens that access as many as 16 new movies, albums, and video games, plus a special documentary about French Polynesia.
No. 14: Swiss, International
The in-flight service aims to make guests comfortable and keep them entertained, with 140 movies, TV shows, and documentaries available to watch. In addition to high-quality food and wine, passengers appreciated that Swiss gives their customers chocolate. The airline even goes out of its way to acknowledge special occasions: “Swiss Air did a wonderful job on our flight,” recounted one voter. “It was [my] birthday, and there was a very nice gift bag waiting in Zurich.”
No. 13: Turkish Airlines, International
T+L readers had many good things to say about Turkish Airlines, praising everything from the extra legroom and timely service to the excellent food. Several people appreciated the fact that on-board chefs prepare meals in the sky; one voter even said, “the food alone is worth flying Turkish Airlines instead of an American airline.”
No. 12: Japan Airlines, International
Japan Airlines received rave reviews from readers, who didn’t have a single complaint. One T+L reader called it “the best of the best,” and said he “enjoys the entire 12+ hours of every flight.” The airline is known for polite, friendly flight attendants, and outstanding customer service all around.
No. 11: Virgin America, Domestic
Though the airline services a limited number of airports in the U.S., it has many T+L readers hooked—and hoping to see new routes. “Virgin America is just pure fun to fly, setting you in the right mood with a hip flight crew and calming cabin,” one reader gushed. “They have an eco-consciousness and a friendly attitude: it’s the only airline I’ve ever flown where a flight captain has walked the aisles to greet passengers.” People also loved the convenience of being able to order a meal on the screen in front of them instead of waiting for a flight attendant with a cart. Another reader added, “They make even the shortest flight feel like a party.”
No. 10: Qantas Airways, International
With such long routes, it’s no surprise that Qantas has paid close attention to perfecting its in-flight service. In addition to comfy cabins and extensive meal services (ice cream and chocolates? Sure!) Qantas’ crew “does everything possible to make their customers comfortable,” according to one reader.
No. 9: Qatar Airways, International
“Attendants really try to make the flights as good as possible,” said one WBA voter who claimed Qatar was his or her favorite airline. Others agreed, noting the service was professional, prompt, and courteous. After all, this is the airline that has sent its wine sommelier, James Cluer, to Mt. Everest to taste test the wines at high altitudes.
No. 8: All Nippon Airways, International
Travelers flying with this Japan-based carrier found the flight attendants practiced a unique, Japanese-specific brand of hospitality, creating a hyper-local and enjoyable in-flight experience. Standout in-flight offerings include spirits such as shochu and sake rice wine, and amenity kits even in economy class.
No. 7: Virgin Atlantic Airways, International
“Always, always, always choose Virgin Atlantic,” said voter Lee Barnett. “Every class of flight is the best I have experienced…this is a company that thrives on service-oriented care, and always delivers. It’s my airline of choice at all times.” Many voters remarked that the airline is the only one they’ll book a flight to London with, thanks to the compassionate, attentive flight attendants.
No. 6: Thai Airways, International
Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles, and that friendly disposition is well-expressed by the flight attendants, who were described as “very friendly” and “delightful” by a number of voters in this year’s survey. The airline also has an extensive program of in-flight entertainment films, television shows, and albums, all accessible via in-seat touchscreens.
No. 5: Air New Zealand, International
T+L subscriber Ria Bhojwani considers Air New Zealand to be one of her personal favorite airlines. “Cabin crew is the friendliest I’ve ever met—genuinely caring people. They go out of their way to make you comfortable.” That’s especially impressive given that so many of their flights are long-haul journeys.
No. 4: Cathay Pacific Airways, International
Cathay Pacific received high marks this year for every aspect of the in-flight experience: but when it comes to entertainment, the airline really stood out. “[Our] attendant brought us a deck of cards, and you could watch a lot of good movies on your own screen,” a WBA voter recalled. Another had a similar experience. “If you don’t get [what you need] all you have to do is ask.”
No. 3: Korean Air, International
Korean Air has transformed skeptics into loyal travelers, thanks to attentive, courteous flight attendants. “The crew was fabulous,” reported one passenger flying with Korean Air. “They were always smiling and available for assistance.” Many recommended upgrading to Korean’s business class-level Prestige seats, some of which lie flat or have a suite configuration. On the A380s, Prestige travelers get in access to the chic Celestial Bar, where they can sip cocktails to break up that cruising-altitude monotony.
No. 2: Emirates, International
“Simply spectacular!” said one WBA voter. “The way air travel should be.” Professional, kind cabin crew are largely credited with boosting line’s reputation, and helping it come in at No. 2 for customer and in-flight service. Many agreed that it didn’t matter where you sat, be it the “cheap seats” or swanky business class: Emirates employees cared for customers with positive attitudes and patience.
No. 1: Singapore Airlines, International
It’s been a pretty good year for Singapore, which swept all of the airline categories in the 2015 World’s Best Awards. Their in-flight service is a genuine treat for travelers, thanks in large part to their iconic flight attendants, the Singapore Girls (and Guys). The highly trained, exceptionally poised crewmembers have not gone unnoticed—or unappreciated. “[They] go out of their way to ensure every passenger’s needs are met, regardless of class. Their attention to detail is mind-blowing and makes for an amazing experience.” Another traveler agreed whole-heartedly. “Even though I was flying in economy,” said T+L subscriber Kim Watkinson, “Singapore Airlines treated me like a First Class passenger.”