Calling them “the friendly skies” doesn’t make it any less nerve-wracking to fly them. Air travel can be quite stressful, and for good reason. No matter how many flight survival tips you stick to, with flight delays, cramped space, crowded bookings, and the mystery that is airplane food, flying has the potential to be a horrible experience — but it doesn’t have to be.
Airlines around the world work hard toward making the in-flight experience bearable, if not enjoyable, for their passengers. At the Paris Air Show this past summer, the Skytrax 2017 World Airline Awards announced exactly who succeeded the most in doing so. Known as “the Oscars of the aviation industry” the World Airline Awards judge 320 airlines from around the world based on passenger satisfaction surveys. Every aspect of the airline experience was covered, including all aspects of ground and cabin service, as well as onboard product. The winners were drawn from among airlines across Europe, Asia, and Oceania — North America, interestingly, was absent — and the list shifted quite a bit from last year. So if you’re looking to fly with the best in the coming year, here are the best world airlines of 2017.
Finally making it to the top 25 this year, Finnair is Finland’s largest airline as well as its flag carrier, with the Finnish government owning 55.8 percent of the company’s shares. Headquartered at Helsinki Airport in the city of Vantaa, Finnair serves 132 destinations and is the sixth oldest continuously-operating airline in the world as well as one of the safest, having had no accidents resulting in fatalities or irreparable damage since 1963.
While the main hub for Hong Kong Airlines is Hong Kong International Airport, its headquarters are in the town of Tung Chung. Also breaking the top 25 for the first time this year, this airline serves 36 destinations.
China Southern Airlines is the largest airline in all of Asia in terms of fleet size, passengers carried, and revenue. The airline, which is headquartered in Guangzhou, has two main hubs in Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport and Beijing Capital International Airport. Serving 208 destinations, China Southern is also breaking into the top 25 world airlines this year.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Established in 1919, the Netherlands’ national airline, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, is the oldest still operating with its original name. Its headquarters are in Amstelveen, near its main hub of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in Haarlemmermeer. Up two spots from last year, KLM serves 145 destinations.
Serving just 28 destinations, Bangkok Airways is a Bangkok-based airline with its main hub at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Falling one place on the list since last year, the airline is regional, serving Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Laos, Malaysia, Maldvies, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, and its home country of Thailand.
South Korea’s Asiana Airlines dropped four spots this year, but still managed to crack the top 20. Its headquarters are in Seoul as is its domestic hub, Gimpo International Airport. Asiana Airlines’s international hub is Incheon International Airport in nearby Incheon, and the airline serves 90 destinations in 26 countries.
Auckland-based Air New Zealand is its country’s flag carrier airline, with the government of New Zealand a majority shareholder. Serving the United Kingdom and the Pacific Rim, Air New Zealand flies to 52 destinations in 19 countries. The airline dropped two places down the list this year.
Air France may have moved down four spots this year, but it’s still got a world-class business class. As France’s national airline, Air France is headquartered at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Tremblay-en-France. It also has a hub at Orly Airport and serves 204 destinations around the world.
A subsidiary of Lufthansa Group, Austrian Airlines has its headquarters at its hub, Vienna International Airport in the city of Schwechat. The Austrian flag carrier airline serves 130 destinations and rose two spots from No. 19 for 2017.
Japan Airlines didn’t even make the top 20 last year, but it shot up five places this year due to improved performance. The second largest carrier in Japan, it is the country’s national airline and is headquartered in Tokyo with its main hubs at the city’s Narita International Airport and Tokyo International Airport. The third largest airline in the world in terms of passengers carried, Japan Airlines serves 92 destinations worldwide.
Australia’s flag carrier airline is its largest, but it dropped six spots this year, falling from No. 9 in 2016. Established in 1920, Qantas Airways is the third oldest airline in the world and currently serves 85 destinations. Based in the suburb of Mascot just outside Sydney, the airline’s main hub is Sydney Airport.
Headquartered in the French commune of Saint-Louis, right outside of Basel, Swiss International Air Lines serves 102 destinations in 46 different countries. The Swiss flag carrier is a subsidiary of Lufthansa Group and rose one spot on this list this year. Its main hub is Zurich Airport, where the airline has some truly impressive lounges.
Serving 52 destinations and based in the Brisbane suburb of Bowen Hills, Virgin Australia moved five spots up the list from No. 18 this year. The airline’s airport hubs are Auckland Airport, Brisbane Airport, Melbourne Airport, and Sydney Airport.
Turkey’s national airline, headquartered at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, is the world’s fourth-largest airline in terms of number of destinations. Serving 302 cities in 120 nations, Turkish Airlines flies to more countries than any other airline. However, the carrier has dropped quite a bit in this year’s ranking, falling from last year’s spot at No. 7.
Like Bangkok Airways, Thailand’s flag carrier airline is based in Bangkok and uses Suvarnabhumi Airport as its main hub. Moving up two spots as opposed to last year, Thai Airways serves 84 destinations in 37 countries in East Asia, Europe, South Asia, Southwest Asia, as well as Oceania.
Rising just one spot this year, Garuda Indonesia finally breaks the top 10. Headquartered at its main hub, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, the airline serves 133 destinations. Garuda is the flag carrier airline of Indonesia, and its country’s government is a majority shareholder.
Based in the city of Haikou, Hainan Airlines is the world’s largest air transport company that is not state-owned. This year, it rose into the top 10 from a previous spot at No. 12. Flying to 110 destinations, the airline’s main hub is Haikou Meilan International Airport, with an additional hub at Beijing Capital International Airport.
National airline of the United Arab Emirates, Etihad Airways serves 83 destinations worldwide. Etihad’s hub is Abu Dhabi International Airport, and its headquarters are located in the Abu Dhabi suburb of Khalifa City. Since last year, the airline fell a few places from No. 6, but its reputation for luxury and opulence persists — it’s even one of the best places to have a romantic dinner for two.
More commonly known as Lufthansa, Germany’s largest airline has its headquarters in Cologne and its main hub at Frankfurt Airport. Last year, Lufthansa came in at No. 10, but this year, it’s jumped up three slots and it currently serves 220 destinations around the world.
EVA Air’s main hub is Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan City, known for its bearable layovers. The Taiwanese airline serves 77 destinations internationally. Climbing two spots this year from No. 8, the airline is one of the safest in the world, having had no accidents or fatalities since its founding in 1989.
Hong Kong’s flag carrier airline, Cathay Pacific, serves 81 destinations, flying from its hub at Hong Kong International Airport. Although it has dropped a place since last year, it remains in the top five airlines in the world. It’s no wonder, considering the airline has a beer especially made to taste better in the air.
Dethroned from the number one spot, Emirates is a state-owned airline based in Dubai. The largest airline in the Middle East, Emirates serves 141 cities in 81 countries on every continent except Antarctica. A leading luxury airline, Emirates is known for actually having good airplane food as well as some of the best service in the business.
Also known as ANA, Japan’s largest airline also has its hubs at Tokyo International Airport and Narita International Airport. Flying to 97 destinations, ANA has bumped itself up to the top three from the No. 5 last year.
You can fly to 64 destinations with Singapore Airlines, which has found itself moving up a spot to second place this year in the world airline rankings. The national airline of Singapore, its hub is Singapore Changi Airport.
Coming out on top as the Skytrax Airline of the Year for 2017 was Qatar Airways, which was previously at the No. 2 spot. Owned by the Qatari government, the flag carrier airline’s headquarters are in Doha and its hub is the capital city’s Hamad International Airport. Serving 152 destinations, Qatar Airways is also synonymous with luxury and award-winning culinary offerings. Worried about how you’ll be able to afford flying with one of these world-class airlines? Save on airfare with these 10 tips every savvy traveler should know.