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Singapore Nabs Top Spot in SkyTrax 2018 Airline Rankings

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SkyTrax’s rankings for the top airlines of the world is out for 2018, and Singapore Airlines ran away with the top spot.

Between their spacious and innovative new first class suites and impeccable service from first class to economy, Singapore has long been regarded as one of the world’s best. It is no surprise they landed at the top of SkyTrax's 2018 Airline Rankings.

However, there are other takeaways from this company’s rankings, the result of millions of customer surveys. Check out the full list of the top 100 airlines and see where your favorite carrier ranks.


The Top 10

Singapore and Qatar Airways have spent the last several years duking it out for the distinction as the world’s best airline. Singapore won this year. From the jaw-dropping Suites Class to a constantly improving business class cabin, Singapore Airlines has led the aviation industry for decades – and customers have generally felt that. 

And in some recent welcome news, Singapore is expanding its U.S. presence with nonstop service to New York and Los Angeles service re-launching later this year.


singapore suites double bed
What's better than one Singapore suite with a bed? Two joined together, with a double bed.


While Singapore was the overall winner, the rest of the top 10 airlines are all titans within the travel world. Here’s the list, along with their home country and ranking in 2017.


  1. Singapore Airlines – Singapore – #2
  2. Qatar Airways – Qatar – #1
  3. All Nippon Airways (ANA) – Japan – #3
  4. Emirates – United Arab Emirates – #4
  5. EVA Air – Taiwan – #6
  6. Cathay Pacific – Hong Kong – #5
  7. Lufthansa – Germany – #7
  8. Hainan Airlines – China – #9
  9. Garuda Indonesia – Indonesia – #10
  10. Thai Airways – Thailand – #11


You can quibble with an individual airline’s ranking over another here, but for the most part, there’s no denying these are all top-tier airlines. All but two of these carriers have SkyTrax’s vaunted 5-star rating.

And while there’s plenty of reason to doubt those distinctions – SkyTrax is a big airline consulting firm, and many question whether their clients get preferential treatment in that classification – the net result is a pretty clear picture of what the world’s best airlines are.

One thing you’ll notice is how remarkably consistent these airlines are. Aside from Etihad, the Middle Eastern carrier struggling through huge financial losses and cost-cutting, no airline from last year’s top 10 moved more than a single place up or down.

And while all 10 airlines have great first class or business class cabins, each of these carriers also has a great reputation as being a comfortable ride in economy, too. Simply put, they’re strong airlines from the nose to the tail.

SkyTrax’s rankings are one of many in the travel world, so they’re certainly not definitive. The company says its rankings are the result of 20.36 million customer surveys performed from August 2017 to May 2018. Read about their methodology here.


Where are the US Airlines? 

Looking for a U.S. airline in these rankings? Keep scrolling. While the major domestic carriers have made strides in recent years to improve their planes and service, they still lag far behind their competition worldwide. That shows in these rankings.

The top-ranked U.S. airline is Delta – a distinction we wholeheartedly agree with. It slots in way down at #37. Scrappy Alaska Airlines followed up at #38, while JetBlue was not far behind at #42.

Meanwhile, the two other legacy carriers – American Airlines and United – were ranked 71 and 88, respectively. Southwest ranked 57, and it may not surprise you to learn ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines didn’t crack the top 100.

This mediocre performance by U.S. airlines just underscores a point we try to make with all travelers: Don’t be scared of airlines from other countries. Far more often than not, they’re a much better experience than Delta, United or American.


Other Accolades

While Singapore nabbed the top spot for airlines overall, other prizes were up for grabs. Singapore, of course, was named the top First Class airline of 2018 as well. Considering they just launched their new Suites Class product with a separate seat and bed situated in a 50-square-foot enclosed space, we’d have been shocked if anyone else won the award.


krug champagne
Singapore serves Krug and Dom Perignon in First Class – a champagne snob's dream.


Meanwhile, Qatar was named the world’s best airline for business class. Given their focus on business class, as evidenced by the world-leading new QSuites, that makes sense. Few airlines can truly compete with Qatar in business. Singapore followed up at #2 for business class.


qatar business class cabin
Whether you're flying a QSuites plane or this A350, Qatar has earned the top spot for business class.


Thailand’s Thai Airways won the honor of the world’s best economy airline – with Singapore again slotting in at #2. Japan Airlines, with a minimum legroom of 34 inches in economy on long-haul flights, was named to have the best economy seat.

Garuda Indonesia won as best cabin crew, given its reputation for warm and genuine service. And stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Singapore ranked #2 in that category, as well.


Bottom Line

There are plenty of airline rankings out there, and all of them should be taken with a grain of salt. Check out these rankings as you plan your travels or mull a Thrifty Traveler Premium flight deal to see how an airline stacks up against the competition.


Lead photo credit of Singapore Airlines. All Rights Reserved

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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