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These Are the World’s Best Airlines

I’m a sucker for travel-related polls and surveys. Not because they reveal any absolute truths. If they did, the results of all such studies would be the same, and they’re not.

What they do reveal is part of the truth, however. And, because they’re based on input from thousands of respondents, they’re a welcome counterbalance to the anecdotes shared around the water cooler, which can sometimes rise to the level of God-given truth.

Travel + Leisure has just released the results of its “World’s Best Awards,” based on responses from readers of the publisher’s on- and off-line publications. The number of survey respondents wasn’t disclosed, but the publications’ travel-intensive content fairly guarantees significant representation by engaged, savvy travelers.

In the domestic category, the top five airlines were as follows:

  1. Virgin America
  2. JetBlue
  3. Hawaiian
  4. Southwest
  5. Alaska

And the international-airline rankings were:

  1. Singapore
  2. Emirates
  3. Cathay Pacific
  4. Virgin Atlantic
  5. Asiana
  6. Qatar
  7. ANA
  8. Thai
  9. Korean
  10. Air New Zealand

Most striking about the domestic-airline results was the strong showing by the nation’s three largest low-cost carriers, and the failure of any of the Big Four legacy airlines to make the list at all. In the minds of a majority of those surveyed, the low-cost airlines weren’t just better value, they were flat-out better.

Among the international airlines, the Asia-Pacific carriers continue their long-held dominance, rating seven of the 10 top spots And only one European airline, the quirkily atypical Virgin Atlantic, made the cut. The big story was the strong showing by Middle East carriers, which captured two of the top six spots and seem poised to continue gaining recognition as luxe service providers for the foreseeable future.

Reader Reality Check

Comments or quibbles about the survey findings?

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