The world's best airlines, according to you – where does BA rank?

Hugh Morris
BA rose in both the short- and long-haul categories - © British Airways
BA rose in both the short- and long-haul categories - © British Airways

The results of the 2018 Telegraph Travel Awards are in, with British Airways hauling itself back into the top 10 in the best short-haul airline category.

It still has some way to go to catch up with Swiss, however, which topped the poll for the second year in a row.

The British flag carrier rose three places to 10th in the rankings, based on the opinions of almost 50,000 Telegraph Travel readers, after last year’s dramatic fall from grace. It topped the ranking in 2016. In results announced at a ceremony in central London today, Icelandair came second ahead of third-placed

In the long-haul category, Singapore Airlines claimed victory for the second consecutive year after knocking Emirates off the top spot in 2016, while Air New Zealand reclaimed bronze medal position from Qatar Airways.

The long-haul accolades were otherwise dominated by Asia, with six of top 10 based in the Far East. Virgin Atlantic was the highest ranking British airline, in seventh place, while BA finished 31st.

Your favourite short-haul airlines

While some things never change - Ryanair has remained nailed to the foot of the table since 2016 - the 10 best short-haul carriers in the world according to you have experienced some seismic shifts over the last few years.

  1. Swiss (=)

  2. Icelandair (=)

  3. (+1)

  4. Austrian Airlines (+2)

  5. KLM (=)

  6. Aurigny Air (-3)

  7. Lufthansa (=)

  8. CityJet (+2)

  9. Aer Lingus (=)

  10. British Airways (+3)

Swiss prides itself on being the skiers' airline of choice - Credit: swiss
Swiss prides itself on being the skiers' airline of choice Credit: swiss

The steady rise of, based at Leeds-Bradford, which climbed from sixth in 2016 to third this year, shows that budget flights can still deliver customer satisfaction, while Channel Islands carrier Aurigny Air fell from third to sixth.

CityJet, which in October (after the Travel Awards survey closed) cancelled its own scheduled services to focus on wet-leasing its planes to other airlines, has seen its ranking improve from 14th two years ago to eighth, while Austrian Airlines, too, has seen its stock rise.

But it is the travails of British Airways that have captivated readers after the airline slipped from first to 13th last year, as it battled to cut costs and compete with its budget rivals, scrapping free food and drink and introducing hand luggage-only fares. This year it did enough to improve its standing, despite suffering a widespread IT security breach in September, reemerging in the top 10 at the expense of Air Malta, TAP Portugal and the absence of now-defunct Monarch.

The best long-haul airlines

Singapore Airlines has established itself as our reader’s favourite long-haul airline, taking top spot for second year in a row, but in a tight race with Emirates. The two have been trading places at the top since 2012.

This year the airline was in the news for re-launching the world’s longest flight - from Singapore to New York - on its new A350 aircraft, on which there are no economy seats.

Nick Trend, Telegraph Travel’s chief consumer editor, says Singapore's win makes it one of the most consistent performers in the history of our awards. "Its secret seems to lie in its state of the art fleet - it has always invested in the latest technology - and the exceptionally-highly trained cabin crew," he said. "It also has the great advantage of a highly strategic home base. Singapore is a gateway to many South-East Asian destinations, and also an attractive stopover if you want to break your journey en-route to Australasia."

"Further down the table Virgin Atlantic put in a creditable performance in seventh place and looks comfortably the best bet for transatlantic flights. British Airways will, I’m sure, be disappointed with the rating you gave it this year. It came 31st out of 50 airlines, on the same score as Kenya Airways. It will certainly want to impress you more next year when it celebrates its centenary."

  1. Singapore Airlines (=)

  2. Emirates (=)

  3. Air New Zealand (+1)

  4. Qatar Airways (-1)

  5. Korean Air (+2)

  6. EVA Air (+6)

  7. Virgin Atlantic (-2)

  8. Japan Airlines (+3)

  9. All Nippon Airways (-3)

  10. Cathay Pacific (+1)

The business class offering on a Singapore Airlines A380 - Credit: Singapore Airlines
The business class offering on a Singapore Airlines A380 Credit: Singapore Airlines

Other airlines known for putting high levels of service at the forefront of their offering make up the top 10, with EVA Air, Taiwan’s airline, and Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, both Japanese carriers, some of the rising stars. Such rankings bode well for Telegraph Travel readers heading to the Rugby World Cup next year.

Another airline of note, and new to the survey this year, is Turkish Airlines. The Istanbul-based carrier is famed for serving the most destinations in the world (304, by latest count, in 122 countries), using well its position at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

Further down the long-haul table the travails of British Airways continue, with the airline struggling to recover from dropping 28 places last year. It has, however, dragged itself up two places to 31, but it might have been hoping for more having last year invested £400 million into its Club World business-class product.

The airline has also launched several new direct services to American cities, from Nashville and San Jose to Oakland and Pittsburgh (from next April). By next April, BA will fly direct to 27 US destinations.

Next on the British flag carrier’s agenda might well be refreshing some of the older members of its fleet, with the highest rated airlines boasting much younger aircraft (BA’s average aircraft age is nearly 14 years, compared to Singapore Airlines’ seven years).

BA’s standing is similar to that of several other European flag carriers, with Alitalia (45th), Air France (40th), Iberia (47th) and Austrian (34th) all languishing.

Interestingly, Swiss fell 12 places in the long-haul category, to 25th, despite its domination of the short-haul awards.

The US airlines continue to struggle

At the foot of the table is the American trio of Delta, American and United. Despite their proud heritage (Delta was founded in 1924; American and United in 1926), the three fail to impress year after year.  

Only Delta has risen above 40th in the last three awards (it is also the only one showing consistent improvement), with United all but pinned to the depths of reader opinions.

Three legacy carriers have been at the forefront of creating “economy basic” fares to offer passengers the cheapest seats with the fewest perks, such as hand luggage, which might explain our readers’ feelings.