What Makes A Winner?

November 02, 2017
top airlines in the world
World’s Best Airlines Criteria

My colleagues and I at Airlineratings.com are often asked what is the criteria for the winners in our World’s Best Airlines for 2018.

A great question to a complex subject.

Is it great in-flight service, low fares, the most impressive aircraft or the best safety record?

It is all of those things, and much more. In some cases, there are aspects that passengers do not see and to which they are unlikely to ever pay attention.

Some members of our editorial team of eight have been involved in nominating and judging airlines for 20 years.

World's Best Airlines Criteria
Air New Zealand’s award-winning Business Premier has one of the best mattresses in the air

We wanted to refine the process so that it is objective and not open to abuse. Some airlines instruct staff to vote in some awards and grossly distort the result.

We wanted a system that identified the key areas that are critical to an airline’s long-term success while recognizing that passenger’s reviews are a very important barometer.

READ: World’s Top Ten Airlines

We settled on 13 criteria which we viewed as the heartbeat of the airline. These are: product rating; safety rating; passenger reviews; fleet age; operating profit; does the airline have premium economy; does it have flat beds in business class; investment grade rating; environmental report; industrial issues; serious incidents; is the airline an innovator and must be a top 50 airline.

While some of these criteria are self-explanatory many are not.

For the majority of passengers, a good safety record, and good price tick the boxes.

However, many of the other criteria, measure the heartbeat of an airline and are often the first signs of more serious problems.

Arline of the Year Judging Criteria

To be Airline of the Year, an airline must have the AirlineRatings.com seven-star safety rating developed in consultation with the governing body of aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organization.

That safety rating involves 11 separate audits, one of which measures 1067 safety and organization parameters and is conducted every two years.

Our product rating measures a range of different parameters important to passengers.

Profitability and fleet age are extremely important. Some airlines are making record profits but are not investing nearly enough in fleets or product. Some have fleets with an average age of 17 years and more.

World's Best Airlines Criteria
Air Canada has a major fleet renewal program underway with Boeing 777, 787s and 737s

Our editorial team places significant importance on premium economy on a long-haul airline. It is without a doubt the best value proposition for the passenger and airline.

We are also insistent that to win Airline of the Year, an airline has flat beds in business class with a good mattress.

We also look to see if the airline is an innovator trying new things to improve the passenger experience.  It can be as simple – and popular – as an automatic coffee ordering system that kicks in as soon as your boarding pass is swiped when entering the airline’s lounge. You then get a text message to says its ready.

An airline must be a leader in the environmental space. Regardless of the debate surrounding climate change, limiting pollution is simply good business and socially responsible. It also sets the tone and shows leadership.

In our view, harmonious industrial relations are critical and are in many cases an excellent snapshot of the heart of airline. It is not about pay so much as if staff are happy and management engaged and listening.

World's Best Airlines Criteria
Qantas is ranked number 2 in the world by AirlineRatings

We also look at serious aircraft incidents but we’re aware great care must be taken in this assessment. Was the incident the airline’s fault?  Take the manufacturing issue that emerged with Qantas QF32 in 2010 when a faulty oil pipe burst in the Rolls-Royce engine of an Airbus A380.

Crash investigators found that the skill of the crew saved the aircraft so that would be counted as a plus for the airline, not a negative.

Finally, our team of judges looks at passenger reviews from our own website and others such as Trip Advisor and the Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Awards to assess how passengers view their experiences.

All of these factors are combined in a spreadsheet to arrive at the Airline of the Year.