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Emirates Ranks First in Launch of TripAdvisor’s Review-Based Global Airline Rankings

The world’s travelers — at least those who write reviews and ratings on a popular website— prefer Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Brazil’s Azul Airlines, according to new rankings released Monday by TripAdvisor.

These are the first airline ratings for TripAdvisor, which in 2016 began soliciting reviews from flyers. On the site, passengers rate airlines on several factors, including legroom, customer service, cleanliness, food and beverage, and in-flight entertainment. Just as with hotels, travelers also can give each airline an overall score between one (the worst) and five. Passengers may write short — and sometimes nasty — reviews of their experiences. Many of the largest airlines already have thousands of reviews.

Emirates — the word’s overall best, according to reviews — also won TripAdvisor’s award for the top first class and economy class products. Travelers said Air New Zealand had the world’s best premium economy experience.

Meanwhile, TripAdvisor’s algorithm decided reviewers liked Russia’s Aeroflot as the world’s best business class. That may surprise many frequent flyers, since the airline does not offer direct-aisle access on any of its President Class seats, and most road warriors hate jumping over a seat-mate to reach the aisle. In addition, some of Aeroflot’s widebody aircraft do not have true flatbed seats.

But blogger Ben Schlappig — a notoriously tough reviewer — flew Aeroflot last year and told readers of his blog that he had been impressed. “Before flying Aeroflot my assumption was that they wouldn’t be good,” he wrote in November. “Boy, was I wrong. The service was flawless, and when I initially reported back on this, every single commenter who had flown Aeroflot’s business class claimed they had a similar experience, so this seems to be the norm and not the exception.”

Other airlines in TripAdvisor’s overall top 10 were JetBlue Airways, Air New Zealand, Korean Air, Japan Airlines, Thai Smile, Alaska Airlines and Garuda Indonesia.

No large, global U.S. or Western European airlines made the top 10 list. But in the United States, TripAdvisor said Delta Air Lines earned higher reviews than its two main competitors, United Airlines and American Airlines. Among full-service Western European airlines, travelers liked KLM, followed by Lufthansa and Swiss. As for Western European low cost airlines, passengers liked Jet2.com best.

RANKINGS DON’T MATCH SKYTRAX

Only a few of TripAdvisor’s top 10 airlines regularly rank high on the annual airline service rankings from SkyTrax, an industry group headquartered in London.

Emirates was SkyTrax’s No. 1 airline in 2016, while Singapore was No. 3. But many other airlines favored by TripAdvisor reviewers appear lower on SkyTrax’s most recent top 100 list, including Azul (No. 55 on SkyTrax), JetBlue (No. 53)  and Alaska (No. 60).

Also, three airlines in SkyTrax’s top five — Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific and All Nippon Airways — did not make TripAdvisor’s top 10. Qatar ranked second on TripAdvisor’s Middle East rankings, while ANA ranked sixth in Asia and Cathay Pacific ranked 10th in Asia.

At times, airline have complained, privately and publicly, about SkyTrax’s approach. The privately held consulting firm does not release its methodology, and it can be difficult to determine how SkyTrax sets its list. However, the group’s top 100 list receives considerable buzz each year, and many airlines strive for its highest ranking — five stars. Only nine airlines in the world have five stars.