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The 12 Best Airlines Of 2018 (And 10 Everyone Should Avoid)

Choosing a flight isn’t just about fitting travel times into your schedule or finding the absolute cheapest option. Savvy travelers book their flights with certain considerations in mind – chief of which is the airline. They want to trust that their flight will leave on time, their bags will follow suit, and their interactions with airline staff are positive and helpful.

How do you find the ideal airline for your next trip? Don’t just rely on what your friends or family members have to say. There’s no way they’ve tried everything out there! The most reliable sources are airline industry rankings from independent research bodies. A great recent resource is AirHelp’s 2018 Ranking of international airlines and air travelers.

It takes statistically significant data from the first quarter of the year to rank 72 of the world’s leading airlines. Overall rankings are based on three factors: on-time performance, quality of service, online consumer reviews, and a score based on how the airline handles customer complaints.

AirHelp’s data is proof that the airlines with the biggest (or loudest) fan bases (cough* Emirates *ahem) don’t necessarily offer service that’s better than their competitors. When it comes down to what matters – leaving and landing on time, not losing bags, and treating passengers well no matter what – you might be surprised to learn which airlines actually come out on top.

Read on to find out whether your fave made the list! Here’s 2018’s list of airlines to try and to avoid, ranked from 10 worst to 10 best.

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22 Virgin Atlantic (Best)

Via Mirror.co.uk

Now we’ve made it to the best of the best! This airline and the ones that follow have been ranked high for raising the bar on flight service and efficiency. Virgin Atlantic is one of the few airlines that made great impressions on most of its travelers in 2018.

“Nothing was too much trouble and [the flight attendants] were smiley, pleasant and chatty,” shares one Skytrax reviewer. “We also enjoyed the food which was tasty and fulfilling.”

“I always like the service and vibe of Virgin Atlantic,” shares another. “No long queues and the service is always warm.”

With good AirHelp scores in punctuality, claims, and customer service, you can trust that a Virgin Atlantic flight will treat you right.

21 Air Malta (Best)

Via Gozo News

If we were flying into gorgeous Malta, we’d probably be in the mood to give this airline good reviews no matter what. It’s MALTA. But even the airline’s ground service is great, according to AirHelp. 86 percent of its flights leave on time, most of its customer service interactions are positive, and a whopping 90% of its baggage problems are handled swiftly and appropriately.

Air Malta seems to work hard to ensure that every passenger walks away in a good mood, even if they’re not walking away with their bags. Online reviewers say that their Air Malta flights are “clean and comfortable,” with “polite and helpful,” “nice and kind” staff. Makes going to the island even more appealing!

20 Pakistan International Airlines (Not The Best)

Via FOX News

In the words of a Skytrax reviewer:

“The crew was nice but what can they do when the seats were dirty, grease and rubbish down side of sear poor quality food served from aluminium trays. On the whole didn't get money's worth. However I was impressed by the staff.”

Pakistan International Airlines’ staff helps to bring its quality of service score up to 6/10, but its claim processing score sits at an unimpressive 2.4, landing it near the bottom of this list. AirHelp reports that a large percentage of its claims are even rejected. You wouldn’t want to risk that!

19 EasyJet (Not The Best)

Via Business Insider UK

EasyJet is fourth from the bottom of this list despite being one of Britain’s favorite airlines. It’s a low-cost carrier that many travelers choose when flying into or out of London. LINK In response to learning that it was Britain’s lowest-ranked airline in AirHelp’s system, a representative from EasyJet spoke out to address any poor service its passengers have experienced in the past year.

“EasyJet takes its responsibilities under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 extremely seriously and will always pay compensation when it is due,” explained a spokesperson for the airline. “We are currently processing valid claims in less than 21 days. We have plans to further improve this payment processing time later this year.” Time will tell!

18 Qantas (Best)

Via Leafcutter

89 percent of Qantas flights depart and arrive on time, making this airline one of two Australian carriers to break into the top 10. It got points for being a reliable option that will likely not lose luggage or treat passengers poorly. If you’re looking for a solid all-rounder with good seat deals, choose Qantas.

“Check-In and security was smooth,” says Skytrax reviewer P. Huang. “I was well greeted during boarding and was very impressed with the customer service. IFE was a bit limited, though the new content was a plus. Overall, the flight was very smooth sailing from take off, refreshment service and touch down.”

17 Aegean Airlines (Best)

Via Dimitrius Vlaikos

Aegean Airlines has an impressive 90 percent on-time rate, according to AirHelp. It’s position near the top of these rankings is mostly thanks to that punctuality, but passenger reviews reveal the airline has a lot of perks that AirHelp didn’t even take into account.

Along with good flight attendant staff and baggage claim handling, an Aegean flight gives you free stuff that provides bang for your buck. “Expect to get a warm meal and free drinks during your short international flight. The meals are tasty Greek food,” according to Finnoy Travelers. “In addition, they are serving also really good desserts. Flying with Aegean feels pleasant even in the economy class.”

16 Air Mauritius (Not The Best)

Via Pinterest

Air Mauritius is another flag-carrying airline not living up to its status. It’s (obv) the main airline flying into and out of Mauritius. It’s not great at having its flights leave on time, for one thing. Just 69 percent of Air Mauritius flights seem to stay on schedule, according to AirHelp data. Air Mauritius scores better on customer service, reaching 7.8/10 thanks to attentive flight attendants and friendly ground staff. Worst is its baggage claim score at just 3.3/10.

Reviewers on sites like TripAdvisor add that the airline’s in-flight entertainment options are also in need of a major upgrade. “Needs more inflight entertainment choice, especially with movies as it's a long flight,” writes one. Look elsewhere if that’s your thing.

15 Ryanair (Not The Best)

Via Southeastradio

Ryanair could have been at the TOP of this list if it weren’t for an abysmal baggage claim score. Everything else about the airline is great value for money, according to AirHelp data and passenger reviews.

“I didn’t have high expectations given that they are a budget airline and we really didn’t pay much,” explains one TripAdvisor reviewer. “The staff are friendly and right the way through was such an easy process.”

88 percent of its flights leave on time, its customer service earned a 6/10 score this year, but its 0.8/10 score for baggage claim processing is inexcusable. We recommend flying Ryanair if you’re looking to save money on quick trips that don’t require you to check your bags.

14 Qantas (Best)

Via Leafcutter

89 percent of Qantas flights depart and arrive on time, making this airline one of two Australian carriers to break into the top 10. It got points for being a reliable option that will likely not lose luggage or treat passengers poorly. If you’re looking for a solid all-arounder with good seat deals, choose Qantas.

“Check-In and security was smooth,” says Skytrax reviewer P. Huang. “I was well greeted during boarding and was very impressed with the customer service. IFE was a bit limited, though the new content was a plus. Overall, the flight was very smooth sailing from take off, refreshment service and touch down.”

13 Aegean Airlines (Best)

Via Dimitrius Vlaikos

Aegean Airlines has an impressive 90 percent on-time rate, according to AirHelp. It’s position near the top of these rankings is mostly thanks to that punctuality, but passenger reviews reveal the airline has a lot of perks that AirHelp didn’t even take into account.

Along with good flight attendant staff and baggage claim handling, an Aegean flight gives you free stuff that provides bang for your buck. “Expect to get a warm meal and free drinks during your short international flight. The meals are tasty Greek food,” according to Finnoy Travelers. “In addition, they are serving also really good desserts. Flying with Aegean feels pleasant even in the economy class.”

12 Korean Air (Not The Best)

Via eTurboNews

Just 64 percent of Korean Air flights leave/land on time, putting the airline in our bottom half. Would you ever want to rely on a ticket that gives you a less than 50 percent chance of arriving in your destination on time? We didn’t think so. Korean Air tickets aren’t cheap enough to be worth that risk!

Other aspects of Korean Air’s service are just passable, according to stats and reviews. As one frequent flyer shares: “Food was below average, flight service and smile was good, entertainment onboard was acceptable, and the seat was extremely comfortable on my 6 hour flight.”

In general, you could do worse – but you could also do MUCH better.

11 Iberia (Not The Best)

Via Travelstart

Spain’s Iberia airline is actually pretty good at sending its flights off on time. Where it’s struggling is in the “quality of service” and “claim processing” categories ranked by AirHelp. Here’s an example of Iberia’s bad service and baggage claim handling from a reviewer on Skytrax:

“When we landed in Madrid we were told no luggage was on board and to go to the service desk regarding our missed connection. We waited half an hour before being served by the most unhelpful and miserable woman I have met. We were told by 10:30 the next day the bags would be delivered. I still don’t know where our bags are.”

Avoid this carrier the next time you’re flying out of Spain.

10 Austrian Airlines (Best)

Via Allplane

Austrian Airlines is a flying fan favorite. It touches down into stunning alpine airports, provides passengers with quick and friendly service, and offers good food and wine in the air. As for AirHelp’s ranking criteria, Austrian Airlines scores A’s across the board.

It scored 8/10 for customer service, 8.2/10 for on-time performance, and 9/10 for claim processing. You don’t need to by flying to or from Austria to take advantage of its high quality. Austrian Airlines flies to 6 domestic cities and more than 120 international destinations, so look out for it then next time you plan on flying around Europe.

9 South African Airways (Best)

Via Skytrax

“South African Airlines has a fantastic claims-processing score,” explains Ashley Raiteri, an AirHelp representative who has personal experience with the airline. It earned 8.69 points of a possible 10 in this category.

After two flights on the airline seated her in places with broken air vents and seat-back screens, she wrote a complaint to South African Airways. “The company seemed well-versed in responding to inquiries of this nature,” she explains. “Staff apologized quickly and gave me a mileage credit. It didn’t undo the terrible flights, but the swift show of humanity is rare in the aviation industry.”

The airline also has great customer service and on-time performance scores. If you fly within Africa, this is your best choice.

8 Aerolineas Argentinas (Not The Best)

Via The Worldfolio

“Irregularities in flights are going to happen,” explains AirHelp representative Ashley Raiteri. “What’s important is whether the airline has planned for that so they can make the experience less hellish for the consumer.”

That’s where Aerolineas Argentinas fell short this year. Dozens of negative SkyTrax and TripAdvisor reviews reveal this airline’s under-prepared staff and shortsighted policies when it comes to helping passengers with delays and baggage losses.

“We are not unreasonable people and appreciate that delays happen (although we never got a decent explanation as to why in this particular case),” writes one TripAdvisor reviewer. “Where it gets frustrating is when multiple AA staff outright lied to our faces about what would be happening as a result of the delay…”

7 Jet Airways (Not The Best)

Via Business Traveller

The good news is that most of the airlines listed above aren’t here because they’re horrible, but because airlines are generally upping their game. According to Raiteri, “we don’t see folks falling in rank due to poor performance, but because another entity is doing better and pushing them down.”

That’s the case for Jet Airways. Their service has generally stayed the same over the past 6 years (since AirHelp started ranking airline data) but these days it just doesn’t measure up. Avoid booking with them if you want your flight to leave on time – AirHelp reports that they have a very weak 65 percent on-time performance average.

6 Singapore Airlines (Best)

Via Singapore Air

If you’re making plans to fly throughout Eastern Asia, choose to book your flights through Singapore Airlines. It’s got some of the best overall AirHelp scores, especially for quality of service. The average customer service score gleaned from all the collected reviews, research, and data is…drumroll please…a perfect 10!

Only one other airline earned 10/10 in this category! When you really think about it, it’s super impressive that this airline’s flight attendants and ground crew have never gotten a substantial amount of negative reviews – or at least haven’t gotten any substantial negative reviews in 2018.

As a bonus, this airline’s flight attendants have uniforms designed by Balmain! Take in their gorgeous style as you cruise through the skies over Singapore.

5 Etihad Airways (Best)

Via The Globe and Mail

Etihad Airways is another company with fantastic flight attendant service (and stylish uniforms). They too have a 10/10 score for quality of service. Add that to an 8.6/10 score for on-time performance and 6.8/10 score for claims processing and you’ve got yourself a top three airline with some room to improve.

Etihad is the second-largest airline in the United Arab Emirates after Emirates Air, but with such great service you’d be better off booking your flight to the Middle East through Etihad in 2018. Let us know if the flight attendants and ground/cabin service live up to their stellar reputation.

4 WOW Air (Not The Best)

Via TravelWeek

WOW Air has a lot of good things going for it. Firstly, it’s hella affordable. Secondly, its cabin crew is known for being the life of the party. Where it’s falling short in 2018 is in its on-time performance and baggage claims processing. You don’t want to fly with them this year if you value your belongings.

Wow Air flights are only on-schedule 75 percent of the time, according to AirHelp data, cutting into your precious vaycay time in your destination. Worst of all is WOW’s claims processing score. You have a less than two percent chance of having your bags returned to you in a friendly and efficient way if they get lost by WOW Air. Not good, guys!

3 Royal Jordanian Airlines (Not The Best)

Via The Atlantic

Royal Jordanian Airlines is the flag carrying airline of Jordan, meaning that it’s at been at least partially state-owned at one point. Flag carrying airlines are usually the top performing airlines of their countries, and the first choice of the country’s dignitaries and celebs (when they’re not living it up in private jets). This airline isn’t living up to its flag-carrying status lately.

This year it’s scored just 60 percent for quality of service, which doesn’t stack up to the scores of other Asian airlines. It’s also got a score of just 3.1 for claim processing, meaning that passengers with baggage issues don’t get much help from this airline. In your upcoming travels, avoid it if you can.

2 Lufthansa (Best)

Via Travel and Leisure

Lufthansa earned a 95% grade for customer service, an 86% claims processing grade, and a not-as-great 76% grade for on-time performance. This averaged out to an 8.57/10, which was just enough for Lufthansa to edge out Etihad for the second place spot in 2018’s AirHelp ranking.

Lufthansa is a German airline with a solid international reputation. It’s a good airline to take often and earn loyalty points with, because you can fly it almost anywhere. This airline flies to 193 international destinations throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Book with Lufthansa when you can and you’re probably going to be glad you did.

1 Qatar Airways (Best)

Via HTG.com.au

When this ranking was unveiled, AirHelp CEO Henrik Zillmer was quick to congratulate Qatar Airways for earning the top spot. “As competition stiffens between airlines, those that put passengers first will come out the winners in the long run,” he explained. In reference to this list’s top three, he encouraged other airlines to “take note of what these impressive competitors are doing.”

Qatar didn’t score any perfect tens, but its consistent high performance across the board got it to number one. AirHelp found that 89% of its flights leave and arrive on time, 89% of its claims are processed quickly and fairly, and 95% of their service interactions were positive. That averages to an impressive 90.8% overall grade! Go Qatar!

References: Bloomberg Report, ThePointsGuy.com/News, FinnoyTravel.com, AirHelp 2018 Airline Survey, TripAdvisor, Skytrax Reviews

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