Global Airline Ratings


Airlines are not all the same. Some are obviously far better than others but this information has been hard to find. Visitors to are too busy to read through reams of reports and evaluations. So we do it for you. The following reviews of the major international airlines are based on industry reports, press coverage, passengert evaluations, and the ratings provided by Churchill and Turen clients over a twenty-year period. This what industry observers say off the record about the relative qualities of the airlines below.

Do remember that no one can accurately predict what your flight will be like because of the number of variables such as date of flight, destination/routing and type of aircraft. No one can predict the general mood of your flight crew or the amount of rest they have received prior to your flight. But the fact is that most airlines seem to perform within the range of their reputation within the travel industry. In that light, we trust that the following list may be helpful as you make your next international routing and airline decisions.

At the end of each review you will find an overview “Grade” for each airline. . F means that we would cancel the trip rather then fly this airline. D means “avoid if there is an alternative”. C means “what you expect and little more”, B means “distinctive in many areas and significantly better then average.” A means “you may well experience one of your best-ever flying experiences. It doesn’t get much better.”
(Note: This information is protected by copyright and use of this material is expressly forbidden)


A taste of European elegance from the time one boards, Air France cabin staff are often characterized as favoring passengers from home. Food, wine selections, and a generally well-regarded Business Class are plusses. Coach is, as with most carriers, something to endure. Changing planes at Charles DeGaulle is not for the faint of heart. Partner in the Sky Team with KLM. Overall service is regarded as superior to that offered on same routes by US carriers. Recent reports indicate noticeable improvements in Business and First Class services and amenities.

Overall Grade: B



Avoid them, if possible, in coach. Their flight attendants don’t think anyone should fly in any but the first ten rows of the aircraft. Coach service to Italy is indifferent. Strikes are an occasional problem. But the fact is, the Italians always do it with style, and most first-time Alitalia flyers come back saying “it really wasn’t all that bad.” Business Class service can be better than satisfactory based on your crew. Many Italy bound flights from the US are on 767 equipment. Flight attendants begin primping for their “walk through the airport on arrival” about an hour prior to landing.

Update: Alitalia’s unioins have refused to ratify a plan to save the ailing airline. A complete shut down of services may occur in a matter of days.

Overall Grade: D



Old-timers and frequent flyers complain that it is all headed downhill, but the fact remains that American outperforms Delta, U.S. Air, and United, when it comes to consistency in the air. Still, this is a US carrier on the decline in terms of overall customer service and satisfaction. When the “more legroom” campaign gave way to the “more seats installed” philosophy of current management, the bottom line may have been helped but American’s reputation suffered. AA can be as uncomfortable in coach as any of its brethren. International service to South America is hit and miss. Service in Europe can be quite good but best to avoid the smaller 767 in favor of the 777 if you are flying coach. We have always felt that American’s cabin attendants and pilots are a more professional bunch then the competition. That is their saving grace. American currently has 75 Boeing 737-800’s onn order with several aircraft already delivered and in operation. Many of these aircraft will replace the MD-80’s baseed in Chicago and Dallas. Delivery of the first set of planes came with a custom configuration thatt adds an extra row of seats reducing seat pitch by an inch. From a comfort standpoint, travelers would do well to avoid this configuration in coach.

Overall Grade: C+



Always reliable and a godsend in remote corners of the old Empire. Surprisingly good Business and First Class, consistently ranked among the best in the sky. Flat beds are now available on all long-haul flights. Planes are well maintained and communication from the flight deck is often characterized as “excellent.” BA is sometimes taken for granted but it’s First Class is now rated among the world’s best. Increasing luggage problems and delays at Heathrow are not a plus for those connecting to points in Europe. Some fly BA for the tea service – but there is so much more. Long haul BA pilots are highly regarded.

Overall Grade: A-



Despite the fact that they are still flying Boeing 747-400’s to Hong Kong from the U.S., Cathay remains one of the world’s top three airlines. Staff is exceedingly and naturally courteous, everything seems to work well, food wins awards, and upper deck Business seats provide an oasis of tranquility. Fliers on Cathay comment frequently on the flight crews “caring and considerate” demeanor. Children receive particular attention. Coach seating is a bit tight but there are numerous entertainment options. This Hong-Kong based world leader sets the gold standard for other tourism-related businesses in China. One of the most loyal fan bases of any international carrier.

Overall Grade: A


Will they merge – will they make it? Delta is cutting back on unprofitable domestic routes while adding as many international routes out of JFK in New York and Atlanta as it can. The 767 routes to Europe tend to be full and service has been rated “satisfactory” on these routes. Delta’s international Business Class gets acceptable grades. Domestic service is haphazard. Connections on Comair out of Chicago to JFK are to be avoided. Staff attitudes seem to be improving as the carrier emerges from bankruptcy. International flights receive better grades then domestic network flights.

Overall Grade: C+



Older aircraft on routes from the US, coupled with poor legroom in coach, leads us to recommended that Iberia be avoided, if at all possible. Short-haul inter-European flights are less of a problem. Buisness Class service is up to standards but is rarely memorable. Reports continue that flight attendants “disappear” for long periods of time.

Overall Grade: D-



Not usually the warmest crews in the air, but Lufthansa is the very definition of reliability. Fleet is extremely well-maintained including Airbus 340 equipment flown from the States. There is more US service to Frankfort then Munich, but Munich is the best-connecting airport in Europe. Buisness Class is comfortable and functional with menus supervised by some of Germany’s leading chefs. Strong service worldwide makes Lufthansa an excellent Frequent Flyer card option. Complaints center around transfer and ongoing service deks which can be rude and “by the book.” When a cruis eline or tour company assigns space on Lufthansa, there is a collective sigh of relief but beware tight connecting times. Most in-transit passengers in Germany have to pass through security checks.

Overall Grade: B+



A “secret weapon” for many, this Star Alliance member accepts United Airlines upgrades and provides professional and calm non-stop service to both Copenhagen and Stockholm out of Chicago. The “secret” is that Copenhagen is one of Europe’s most efficient airports. SAS features Economy Plus but it is the airline’s Business Class that wins high marks. As in keeping with the culture, service can appear to be laid back but flight crews work hard and efficiently to deliver a high caliber, if businesslike, flying experience.

Overall Grade: B+



Flying Singapore can be a depressing experience because you may wish you could choose them on every route, domestic and international. Their excellence and consistency shows just how good an airline can be and just how awful many US carriers really are. They are the first airline to take delivery of the new Airbus 380. Why are they considered the best airline in the world? Start with the newest, most sumptuous aircraft, add some of the best flight attendants, and food that can actually be memorable. While some say that economy on a Singapore flight is as good as Business on some carriers, we would rather say that travelers whop fly Business or First on Singapore always seem to feel it was worth the price. Singapore now has competition from carriers like Emirates and Virgin Atlantic and loyalists claim that’s a good thing. The entertainment menu, even in coach on the Airbus 340’s, is far ahead of the competition but legroom in coach remains “tighter” then most would like. Excellent connections in Singapore, home to one of the world’s top three airports. Flaws are just hard to find and consistency and innovation continue to amaze those privileged enough to fly this carrier.

Overall Grade: A+



Turkish has emerged as one of the most improved carriers on our list. Service out of London, for instance, is considered to be better then what is provided by many competing European carriers. The JFK and Chicago non-stops get high marks, particularly in Business and First. Turkish leases and owns a number of 777-300’s. However, international flights are often operated with Airbus 340 equipment that pales in comparison. Given the lack of in-flight entertainment options on the version of AB340 used by Turkish, travelers would be well advised to pay careful attention to the type of aircraft they are booking. Service, food, and IFE on the 777’s are generally regarded as high quality. It is easy to forget that Turkish carries more than 20 million passengers annually to 108 worldwide destinations. Food is fine – not the best in the air but far from the worst. Communication between pilots and passengers is an area where improvements need to be made.

Overall Grade: C+



The sad fact is that United does not score at or near the top of any single category that matters to fliers with the exception of Star Alliance partners. Mileage can be used to upgrade on Lufthansa, SAS, us Air, and Singapore Airlines, among other Alliance partners. While the 777’s that fly to London and Frankfurt get high marks out of Chicago, many grumble about the “ancient” 747’s flying routes to the Orient. Seniority-based staff on international routes can seem to take their jobs for granted. Food and service in Business class does not compare to that offered by competing international carriers. Some fliers are willing to forget about poor in-flight service in lieu of UA’s vast partner network and pilots who instill a high level of confidence. Experienced fliers choose Economy Plus seating which provides extra legroom at pricing just north of economy.

Overall Grade: C



This is the major US carrier that is easy to dislike although frequent fliers are quick to note that international service in Business is getting better. Small planes and quite ordinary food are the problem, along with luggage lapses in Philadelphia where the majority of international connections take place. The airline’s Envoy Class does have larger seats but food and service still lag far beyond major competitors.

Overall Grade: C-



Virgin is one of the world’s great airlines and the most fun to cross the Atlantic. Service is sleek and hip on a modern fleet that includes stand-up cocktail bars in Upper Class as well as manicure and in-seat massage services. Business and First Class aircraft, including well turned-out 747 400’s, include full 180 degree beds. Insiders recommend Premium Economy for those who can’t spring for Business. It is “worth every extra penny”. Virgin is, at the same time, highly professional, hip, and even cool. Most fans of the airline, and they are legion, report that this airline “really makes you feel special.” Even the Virgin Lounge at Heathrow is “”in a class by itself” featuring a salon, a spa, and a free restaurant. For those who think all airlines are the same – a ride on Virgin is highly recommended. And don’t be surprised to see Sir Richard Branson walking through the aircraft to personally greet each passenger.

Overall Grade: A+





In order to get the most miles for overseas flights you need to know how to book partner airlines. There are three major airline alliances. You can often fly on codeshare tickets and earn valuable flight miles even though you are not using the airline on which you hold frequent flyer status. If you hold frequent flyer status on Delta, American, or Unted, you can use miles to fly on any of their alliance partners. This literally means that you can use miles to fly almost anywhere – providing mileage seats are availabe. since the flights of alliance members are usually codeshares, you can book you flights on partners by speaking directly to the frequent flyer desk. You should have s special telephone number to reach them. It usually appears on your Frequent Flyer membership card, or on the back of your mileage credit card. Do note that airlines are aware of how you earned your mileage points. Flyers who earned points by shopping have far less sdtatus witht he airlines then those who are actually frequent flyers and qualify for mileage status based on the number of alliance miles flown each year.

The list below may prove valuable as you plan future flights. All of a sudden, the world of Delta, United, or American opens to include airlines based worldwide. You need to know all of your options to take advantage of the system:



Major Partners:

  • AeroMexico
  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • KLM
  • Korean Air

Major Partners:

  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Iberia
  • JAL Japan Airlines
  • LAN Chile
  • Qantas


Major Partners:

  • Air Canada
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Lot Polish Airlines
  • Luifthansa
  • SAS – Scandinavian Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss
  • Thai Airways
  • US Airways

The World’s Top Ten Airlines (Service And Safety)

The following airlines have consistently outranked their comeptitors in terms of on-board service accolades and awards, Each of these airlines has actually enhanced it’s on-board service levels in First and Business Class on most routes, The top five airlines on our list have also made significant improvements in the level of service and even comfort afforded economy passengers. Part of these enhancements are the result of new aircraft orders.

It is more difficult to evaluate safety standards. The fact is that flying any one of these airlines is statistically far safer than driving on an American highway – by more than 200-1. In fact, when it comes to safety statistics, the average American is far safer aboard a flight on any one of these carriers than staying at home.

We will always update traveltruth readers on issues of safety. There is, for example, clear statistical evidence that carries from Africa, the Middle East, and South America, have more fatalities per miles flown than the carriers on our Top Ten List. There are a number of large airlines that we do not recommend to our guests. These include:Egyptair, Turkish Airlines, and Indian Airlines. However, Emirates has an enviable safety record as does South African Airways.So one cannot accurately rate individual carriers by continent.

Airlines with truly enviable safety records and near-perfect scores include Quantas and Southwest. The Southwest stats are particularly impressive when one includes the average number of take-offs and landings.

The Best of the Best: Ranked in Order of Score

01 –Singapore Airlines

02 – Emirates Air

03 – Cathay Pacific

04 – Qatar Airlines

05 – Virgin Atlantic

06 – Qantas

07 – Thai Airlines

08 – Lufthansa

09 – British Airways

10 – ANA (All Nippon Airways)


We have just completed our 2008 rankings of the international airlines that offer the best service in the sky. Our ratings are based on reviews of all available industry sources that use quantitative measures to determine which flight crews provide consistently excellent service. At this moment, the top five airlines in the world, based entirely on in-flight service, are:

# 1 – Qatar Airways
# 2 – Emirates
# 3 – Cathay Pacific
# 4 – Singapore Airlines
# 5 – Thai

Our ratings are focused entirely on service in-flight. The flight crews on the airlines in our Top Five, provide :memorable service” more often then not.

The biggest surprise is the rather sensational gorwth of Qater as it solidifies its standing as one of the world’s great airlines.

The European Union Blacklist of Unsafe Airlines

They are known as “Flying Coffins” and they are banned from landing in Europe. In 2006, the European Union banned 92 airlines, the vast majority of them from Africa. Declared unsafe according to international standards, they are not permitted to land at European airports. The E.U. created the blacklist in response to several fatal airline crashes in Greece, Italy, and Egypt in 2004 and 2005. These are airlines that do not meet the stringent safety requirements within the borders of Europe or the United States,


  • Ariana Afghan Airlines


  • Air Service Comores

Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Africa One
  • African Company Airlines
  • Aigle Aviation
  • Air Boyoma
  • Air Kasai
  • Air Navette
  • Air Tropiques s.p.r.l.
  • Ato—Air Transport Office
  • Blue Airlines
  • Business Aviation s.p.r.l. Butembo Airlines
  • CAA—Compagnie Africaine d’Aviation
  • Cargo Bull Aviation
  • ?Central Air Express
  • Cetraca Aviation Service
  • CHC Stelavia
  • Comair
  • Compagnie Africaine d’Aviation
  • C0-ZA Airways
  • Das Airlines
  • Doren Aircargo
  • Enterprise World Airways
  • Filair
  • Free Airlines
  • Galaxy Corporation
  • GR Aviation
  • Global Airways
  • Goma Express Great Lake Business Company
  • I.T.A.B. — International Trans Air Business
  • Jetair—Jet Aero Services, s.p.r.l.
  • Kinshasa Airways, s.p.r.l.
  • Kivu Air
  • La —Lignes Aériennes Congolaises
  • Malu Aviation
  • Malila Airlift
  • Mango Mat
  • Rwabika “Bushi Express”?
  • Safari Logistics
  • Services Air
  • Tembo Air Services
  • Thom’s Airways
  • TMK Air Commuter
  • Tracep
  • Trans Air Cargo Services
  • Transports Aeriennes Congolais (Traco)
  • Uhuru Airlines
  • Virunga Air Charter
  • Waltair Aviation
  • Wimbi Diri Airways

Equatorial Guinea

  • Air Consul SA
  • Avirex Guinee Equatoriale
  • COAGE—Compagnie Aeree de Guinee Equatorial
  • Ecuato Guineana de Aviacion Ecuatorial Cargo
  • GEASA—Guinea Ecuatorial Airlines SA
  • GETRA—Guinea Ecuatorial de Transportes Ae5eos
  • Jetline Inc.
  • KNG Transavia Cargo
  • Prompt Air GE SA
  • UTAGE—Union de Transport Aereo de Guinea Ecuatorial


  • BGB Air
  • GST Aero Air Company


  • Phoenix Aviation
  • Reem Air


  • International Air Services
  • Satgur Air Transport, Corp.
  • Weasua Air Transport, Co. Ltd

North Korea

  • Air Koryo


  • Silverback Cargo Freighters

Sierra Leone

  • Aerolift, Co. Ltd
  • Afrik Air Links
  • Air Leone, Ltd
  • Air Rum, Ltd
  • Air Salone, Ltd
  • Air Universal, Ltd
  • Destiny Air Services, Ltd
  • First Line Air (SL), Ltd
  • Heavylift Cargo
  • Paramount Airlines, Ltd
  • Star Air, Ltd
  • Teebah
  • West Coast Airways Ltd.


  • Aafrican International Airways, (Pty) Ltd
  • Airlink Swaziland, Ltd
  • Jet Africa
  • Northeast Airlines, (Pty) Ltd
  • Scan Air Charter, Ltd
  • Swazi Express Airways


  • Phuket Airlines

*Source; The Official Journal of the European Union