There’s nothing quite like traveling the globe and getting to explore our vast planet. Traveling truly is the best of what the world has to offer. It allows for the richest experiences in culture, food, and the immense diversity our planet enjoys. There are countless reasons to book a trip and go see the world and many of us will do so at some point in our lives. In fact, there are a great number of us that will dedicate our lives to traveling the world.
Part of that exploration means actually getting to the destination. There are plenty of ways to travel, whether it be by sea, on the road or by air. People use all of these methods but there is no denying that air travel will always lead the way. According to Statista, a website that specializes in pulling data together, there were 36.8 million flights worldwide last year and a projected 39 million by the end of this year.
With so many people opting for air travel, it means there are more airlines putting planes in the sky than ever before. Some of these airlines are fantastic, giving passengers the value they hope for when paying hefty ticket prices to board. Others are lacking a great deal, often leading to some of the worst travel stories imaginable.
Compiled using data from different sources, here are ten of the worst airlines in the world (25–16) and fifteen of the best (15-1).
25 Avoid: Avianca
Avianca was founded nearly a century ago in 1919, making this one of the oldest airlines in existence. Headquartered in Colombia, this airline’s history has played a significant role in its decline over the years.
Nearly three decades ago two major incidents led to the public’s loss of trust in Avianca with an airplane crash on its way to NYC after it ran out of fuel and another plane going down after takeoff because of an explosive on board. The airline could never recover.
Today, it gets low marks in most categories including being on time, the customer service and their ability to answer to general complaints. The airline has even had several issues with employee protests over labor disputes and unfair practices.
24 Avoid: Vueling Airlines
Vueling Airlines is Spain’s second largest because of its incredibly affordable prices which keep customers coming back. But passengers have a history of complaining about the airline’s service and general lack of amenities. Sometimes the cost of a low ticket is worth the hassle, but other times, a bad experience makes you question your desire to save some serious coin.
Their low grade on service even extended to the world famous soccer athlete Lionel Messi who, according to the Daily Mail, was issued an apology by the airline after they falsely claimed they could not expand their airport services because the star had imposed a no-fly zone over his mansion in Spain. This definitely wasn’t a good look for an airline looking to gain customers trust when it comes to their passenger service.
23 Avoid: Jet2.com
The airline’s name is certainly unique and even off-putting to some, but it changed the way it was known to customers after being known formerly as Channel Express. Bad name notwithstanding, Jet2.com Airlines, based out of the United Kingdom, offers some of the cheapest flights in the world specializing in vacation destinations.
These low cost flights often means their ability to provide a best in class service or process customer claims is nearly nonexistent. If there aren't any bad experiences, then the price of the ticket is worth it, but if there are any issues to be resolved, skimping on the costs is going to be a huge nightmare as the airline has a history of taking forever to get them resolved, if at all.
22 Avoid: Thai Airways
Operating for nearly six decades, Thailand’s official airline has been riddled with issues throughout much of its existence with most of it centered on the overall lack of quality service.
This means their customer service is sometimes subpar with a lack of attention to professionalism and friendliness along with fairly consistent complaints regarding baggage handling. Lost luggage is not an uncommon occurrence for those choosing to fly Thai Airways. It also doesn’t help that the airline has been marred in controversy over illegal briberies with companies competing for airplane contracts.
21 Avoid: Jet Airways
Jet Airways isn’t necessarily considered one of the outright terrible airlines of the world, but for such a major aviation company, it is really average across the board. Based in India out of Mumbai, Jet Airways has consistently received fairly underwhelming marks in the quality of service they provide and their on-time performance.
The airline services 66 destinations and is considered the second largest in the country, but has been in financial ruin for years, further hurting its ability to improve its standing in the industry.
20 Avoid: Korean Air
South Korea’s official airline, Korean Air, is considered massive by any standards. Worldwide, it brings passengers to well over a hundred destinations across forty three countries. Operating since 1969, Korean Air has somewhat of a monopoly on the country’s aviation industry so if a trip to South Korea is in the cards, there’s a chance you aren’t going to be able to escape its inability to process claims. The customer service is fairly good if that’s any consolation.
19 Avoid: Ryanair
Ireland’s massive airline, Ryanair, operates in nearly forty countries and services over a hundred million passengers yearly. Ryanair gets some pretty great marks when it comes to their flights being on time, but where it fails to meet customer expectations are the costs for just about anything other than the ticket.
With affordable prices to board, they tend to make up the money by charging passengers for just about anything you would expect to be free including the ability to select your own seat and any luggage you’re bringing with you. That means having to pay for your carry-on as well!
18 Avoid: Easyjet
Easyjet’s success comes from its absurdly cheap prices for plane tickets. Passengers from thirty one different countries are willing to risk the terrible claim processing by the airline because of the pricing.
This is another example of the payoff being great if everything goes smoothly. But if there’s even a single glitch in your flight experience, Easyjet passengers shouldn’t expect for it to be remedied as the airline has some of the worst scores in the industry.
17 Avoid: Pakistan International Airline
Often considered one of the worst airlines the world, coming in toward the bottom of several airline rankings, Pakistan International Airline gets low marks across most major categories.
On time performance and service quality are below average while their ability to fix customer issues is some of the worst in the industry. It also ranks low in safety as there was a recent plane crash only two years ago in 2016 when 47 people perished. Emergency landings have been more common than what is standard.
16 Avoid: WOW Air
The only thing keeping WOW Air in the air are dirt cheap airline prices which can get down to unheard of levels. Despite the airline’s name, hoping to wow customers, it does anything but with some of the lowest marks in the industry across every metric. With problems plaguing the airline in flight delays, cancellations, poor customer service and things like lost luggage, WOW Air is simply considered one of the worst airlines in the world, often seen as the one at the absolute bottom.
15 BEST: Japan Airlines
The award winning flagship airline of Japan is the first on our list of best in the world. Japan Airlines receives top marks in just about every aviation category but truly stands out with its impeccable services to its passengers, putting an emphasis on the details that would make any paying customer happy, including some of the best legroom and seat space in the industry.
The airline has also received praise for its patented in-flight entertainment system, MAGIC, which offers the latest in movies, music and video games. The service from this Japanese airline helps it stand above many other competitors in the Southeast Asian region.
14 BEST: Cathay Pacific
Considered the busiest in the world in terms of cargo traffic, Cathay Pacific, based out of Hong Kong, is one of the ten largest airlines in the world in terms of both sales and market share. Cathay Pacific continues to grow through its best in class service with some of the best loyalty programs in the industry. It has also been heralded for its first class cabin seating which has the ability to convert into fully sized lie-flat beds that come with massage functionality, an ottoman, a personal television and closet. The pricing typically reflects the level of service you are going to receive, which more times than not, tends to be top notch.
13 BEST: Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines is a US based company with headquarters in Dallas, Texas that is seen as one of the staples in the industry when it comes to customer service, with nearly perfect scores in complaints (or lack thereof). The airline has had some issues with flight delays in the past, but its competitive pricing and attention to passenger satisfaction boosts its standings in the industry.
Southwest often ranks towards the top of any airline list, always coming out as the one that is least complained about over any other.
12 BEST: Hawaiian Airlines
Based in the state of Hawaii, this US based airline promotes itself on its ability to get passengers from one destination to the next on time and without any issues. It certainly prides itself on efficiency and error free flights based on its performance.
Although customers tend to complain about its lack of Wi-Fi and leg room, Hawaiian Airlines often gets some of the highest scores in cancellations, delays and denied boardings, leaving most passengers with unmatched peace of mind when it comes to getting to their final visiting place on time.
11 BEST: Emirates
Based out of the city of Dubai, it should come as little surprise that Emirates has climbed the ranks of airlines in just a few short years because of the city’s ever growing presence in tourism and travel. In order to accommodate the increasing number of people flocking to the city, Emirates has had to change is business model to keep up with the demand and most of the changes have been extremely positive as it has scored high marks in most categories. Its growing presence can be seen everywhere as several European and Asian sports teams brand the name on stadiums and jerseys, making Emirates a household name in the industry.
Where it truly stands above the rest of the airlines is its state of the art in-flight entertainment which offers hundreds of movies and popular video game titles, thousands of hours of music, all of which can be accessed in over forty languages.
10 BEST: AA
It should come as little surprise that this Fort Worth, Texas based airline makes the list of best at some point, considering it is the world’s largest. With an astounding fifty countries being serviced which spans 350 destinations, AA’s undeniable colors and logo can be seen in skies everywhere throughout the world.
With so many passengers, the airline has to ensure it stays ahead of the pack and it does so with fantastic scores in leg room, entertainment options, denied boardings and customer complaints.
9 BEST: Virgin America
Based out of the west coast in the United States, Virgin America quietly makes the list of best airlines with incredible rankings in the most important categories. With relatively few mishaps with baggage handling, denied boardings being a rarity and some of the fewest passenger complaints in the industry, Virgin America sets a premium standard in the country. Virgin also received a perfect score in entertainment options making this an emerging star in the industry. The airline is still relatively small with only 24 destinations, but is looking to expand its presence with its recent acquisition of other fleets.
8 BEST: Virgin Australia
The famous billionaire, Richard Branson, makes his second appearance on our list with his other Virgin based airline, Virgin Australia, which ranks only a spot ahead of its sister fleet Virgin America. Australia is the largest of all of Branson’s Virgin fleets and the second largest airline in the country.
When the airline was introduced to the world in the early 2000’s, it operated as a low cost model airline, but has since changed its business strategy, instead opting to give passengers the choice of a cheap, straight forward ticket without any extras or a higher priced premium ticket with all the amenities one could hope for. The model has proven successful as Virgin Australia is often one of the best in the world.
7 BEST: United Airlines
One of the largest airlines in the world, serving nearly 350 destinations worldwide, United always ranks among the best in overall class. United Airlines, based out of Chicago’s giant O’Hare Airport, scores high in entertainment, legroom, on-time boarding and best in class passenger service.
For such a large airline, it is impressive that United is able to still rank towards the top in efficiency while serving millions of passengers a year, proving that their business model is as strong as ever.
6 BEST: SkyWest Airlines
SkyWest Airlines is one of the smaller airlines on our list of best, with service only offered within the United States. Despite their limited aviation coverage which serves 238 US destinations, they still deserve a spot on our rankings as their attention to detail and service is impeccable.
With a perfect score in customer complaints, high marks in animal related service, cancellations and on time boarding, SkyWest continues to be a niche brand with a loyal customer base.