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World's 10 Best Airlines: TripAdvisor's Votes Are In But So Are Some Big Surprises

With many major airlines scrambling to revamp their premium cabins and add amenities like suites, showers, more privacy and better food, those of us in the travel business hear a lot about aviation updates, especially from Asian and Middle Eastern carriers. But you rarely hear anything at all about Russia’s national airline, Aeroflot. Nonetheless, Aeroflot just took top honors from TripAdvisor for Best Business Class—of any airline in the world.


That’s just one of several surprises in the latest airline rating. TripAdvisor, which claims to be the world’s largest travel site and has more than 450 million user reviews, just released its first ever Best Airline list for 2017, compiled from user data over the past 12 months. In addition to the namesake TripAdvisor site, the publicly traded parent TripAdvisor, Inc. also operates nearly two dozen other travel related websites ranging from AirFareWatchdog to CruiseCritic to SeatGuru, many of them aviation related.


"We are proud to announce the inaugural Travelers' Choice awards for airlines, to help travelers make the most well-informed air travel decisions, based on the experiences of the global TripAdvisor community," said Bryan Saltzburg, senior vice president and general manager for TripAdvisor Flights, via release. "The airline industry is investing billions of dollars in new aircraft and service enhancements to differentiate the flying experience and these awards recognize the carriers offering the very best experiences and value to the traveling public."


Emirates won the top overall honor as the World’s Best Airline and not surprisingly, the Top 10 did not include a single US legacy carrier, though Jet Blue, which also was the Number One Mid-Sized & Low Cost Carrier in North America, made the World Top 10, along with Alaska Airlines. Jet Blue was the best preforming domestic airline, and elsewhere, Asian carriers did especially well with Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Japan Airlines (JAL), ANA, Cathay Pacific, EVA (Taiwan) and Indonesia’s Garuda all making strong showings. Europe was the most surprising region, with Aeroflot taking top honors followed by Turkish Airways, which has been on an aggressive self-improvement program the past few years to generally strong reviews, while several bigger names were no shows. The World Top 10 were:


1. Emirates, United Arab Emirates

2. Singapore Airlines, Singapore

3. Azul, Brazil

4. JetBlue, United States

5. Air New Zealand, New Zealand

6. Korean Air, South Korea

7. Japan Airlines, Japan

8. Thai Smile, Thailand

9. Alaska Airlines, United States

10. Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia


50 airlines were honored overall, including Best lists for the World, Europe, North America, the Middle East and Africa, along with 16 regional/country winners. The awards also sorted top airlines by level of service, First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy. Besides Aeroflot for Business Class, other class of service winners were Emirates for First; Air New Zealand for Premium Economy; and Emirates again for Economy. Unfortunately, class of service categories do not go beyond first place - it would be nice to know who else did well in First and Business, maybe the Top 5.


The concept makes sense for TripAdvisor, since the entire platform is built on the methodology of crowdsourcing opinions and consumer ratings in large numbers. But because the award criteria include value, lower fare airlines seem to feature more prominently and this kind of methodology can fail to distinguish between the actual “best” and “best bang for the buck,” which can be two very different things. If you have deep pockets or an expense account, you might favor the highest quality experience over the best buy, and that doesn’t seem to be clearly reflected in these results. Likewise, the poll doesn’t seem to account for alliances or loyalty programs, which are very important to many travelers. Winners by individual countries skewed towards low fare carriers, many of which it is hard to believe actually outperformed their bigger full-cost rivals for service, with little known airlines like Hop!,, Volotea, and Interjet all winning best by country over venerable airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Iberia, Air France, and so on. This value slant might also explain Emirates’ success, given that many in the industry claim it is unfairly supported by government subsidies, allowing it to undercut competitors.


Winners were determined using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of airline reviews and ratings submitted by travelers worldwide, over a 12-month period. You can view the full results here.