World’s best airlines are from outside Europe and America

ANY surprise that the world’s best ten airlines according to the 2013 Skytrax survey are sited east of Europe and west of the Americas? Not anymore, when Asian and Middle-Eastern airlines consistently outdid their European and American counterparts.

Look at the Skytrax list, ranked as follows:

1 Emirates Airlines
2 Qatar Airways
3 Singapore Airlines
4 All Nippon Airways
5 Asiana Airlines
6 Cathay Pacific
7 Etihad Airways
8 Garuda Indonesia
9 Turkish Airlines
10 Qantas

qantasQantas, which is geographically situated within the broad borders of the region, is about the only airline that may be considered not Asian or Middle-Eastern, although Australia has increasingly moved to be closer to its neighbours – economically at least.

Clearly this tells us that Asian and Middle-Eastern airlines have beaten their European and American masters at their game, as far as image and customer service are concerned. Service appears to be a natural part of the eastern culture, whereas European and American airlines tend to be more functional than to be bothered with frills.

SIASingapore Airlines in its early days took the aviation world by surprise to set the benchmark for customer service, and that was the beginning of the end of western supremacy in the field. Today, it is the Middle-Eastern airlines such as Emirates and Qatar that have taken over the lead, but Asian airlines from Singapore to Japan continue to be among the top airlines. It is the region, rather than an isolated case that wins.

garudaThat may be explained by the heightened competition among the airlines within the region to beat each other at the game. An encouraging sign is the emergence of Turkish Airlines and Garuda Indonesia in the top ten list. While Turkish may have been an underrated airline in the past, Garuda has been very much sidelined by travellers and authorities for a speckled history of safety incidents, but the Indonesian flag carrier has recently embarked on a makeover program to gain traction in the competition. The comeback is a big honour for the airline.

Conversely, it is this absence of competition among airlines in the west that may have resulted in a happy co-existence of average performers and the resignation of consumers to the limited options. A dollar spent on one is not much different from a dollar spent on another – just get me there safely and in good time, sort of. It becomes a vicious circle.

cathay emiratesQantas on the other hand may be feeling the pressure of the competition by its neighbouring airlines, since it is very much operating in the same arena. Besides, Qantas has identified Asia as its Holy Grail to turn round its losing international arm. SIA and Cathay are definitely strong rivals, and Emirates before the two airlines enter into an extensive partnership that is likely to shake up the competition on the kangaroo route and in the Asia-Pacific region.

Can European and American airlines make their way back into the coveted list? A more pertinent question would be, do they even want to?

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About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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