Sunday, February 17, 2008

The world's best and worst international airlines

This last week I was asked to write a brief round-up article for a travel website on the world's top 10 airlines based on an international survey conducted by Skytrax. While I didn't think this was a terribly interesting article, apparently it struck a nerve with the website's readers whose quick clicking actions made my story one of the site's most downloaded articles for the day.

Personally I've always loved flying - I love the food (yes, I really do like reheated airline dinners; they heighten my sense of excitement about the fact that I am doing something out of the ordinary and that I am going somewhere special), I love the movies and I love the thought of taking off to a distant foreign land. But as I have gotten older the whole experienced has dimmed. So much so, that I now spend most of my time during the flight watching the flight route map continually asking myself the question all parent's loath: "Are we there yet?", "Are we there yet?", "Are we there yet?"

The overwhelming response drawn by this article, however, got me thinking about which international carrier was my most and least favoured airline. So here are my picks:

My favourite international airline
I agree wholeheartedly with Skytrak's survey participants here; without a doubt my all time favourite international airline is Singapore Airlines. I just love to fly with Singapore Airlines. Not only are the seats comfortable (from an economy perspective of course), but the food is superlative and the flight attendants are so sweet and lovely that it’s almost a crime to ask them to do anything for you. The first time I flew with them back in early 2000 I thought I'd been accidentally upgraded from my usual cramped position in cattle class to business class – the seats seemed bigger, I had my own personal TV with a huge choice of movies and could control what I watched and when I watched it; I even had my own telephone (not that I used it). Most of these things are now standard on almost all international airlines, but, in my opinion, Singapore was, and still is, well ahead of the competition.

My least favourite international airline
Nothing against Germans here, but I have to say Lufthansa is the worst airline I have ever flown with – and I've flown with some pretty doggy airlines over the years including a number of very undesirable and unsafe African and Eastern European airlines which I never thought I'd make it to my final destination still in one piece on. When it comes to international airlines, though, Lufthansa with its cramped, cold vinyl seats (didn’t vinyl go out with the 70s?), bland, inedible food and dour flight attendants is by far the worst international airline... All I can say is avoid if you can!

While these two are my most and least favoured airlines, I am sure there are many others out there that I haven’t even contemplated. Which international airlines do you think are the best and the worst?

Image sourced from


Xander said...

I have to agree; Lufthansa is the worst. The flight attendants are always so gruff, and the movie selection is dismal. The last time I flew with them, I think we watched some HBO Original on a tiny shared screen. -X

Caitlin said...

Singapore Airlines is fantastic! The food, entertaiment and service are all great. And their business class is awesome, if you ever get the chance.

I didn't much care for China Eastern, which we flew all the way from London to Australia a couple of years ago. The food was terrible, they didn't have individual screens and the movies on the main screen seemed to be mostly in Chinese. However, they did get us there safely and on time and didn't lose our luggage.

- Suzie from Beijing - said...

Hi Mrs. Wild,

first of all thank you for linking to me! I love your interesting blog and website and especially this post. It gave me some laughs and thougts.

The best airline indeed that I remember was Sigaporean (and also Emirates is not bad). I remember these pretty dressed good looking and always smiling flight attendants kneeling in front of you adressing you with your full name etc. It makes you feel good - and after flying so many times, too many times, I less and less enjoy flying... I even get scared most of the time... and watch like you the flight map (oh no, still over Sibiria...) Therfore feeling good is important, it makes you feel saver. Savety is key, not the food. That is because I still like flying Lufthansa (I am German), but have to say, the flight attendants are sometimes scary. Can you believe that some LH flight attendant reminded me not to take too many magazines? (I prefer magazines over movies). She really had counted them... and this was business class!!!

Now the real bad airlines:
Air China and Garuda. Both for savety reason. I think about the first one I need to write an etire blog post as I experienced this airline from Rome to Beijing just on Feb 15 for the first (and last) time.

And a Garuda Airline pilot almost crashed us in a Taifun over Tokio while praying to the face of his mother... that he saw apparently in front of him acording to a flight attendant - after us the airport was closed. I think Indonesian pilots in general are kind of fanatic in critical situations which is not a good thing for a pilot. So for me in general: no Indonesian airline.

Oh, one more thing: I am scared of MD11 - that are (or were) in use by Swiss. And I avoid flying via Zuerich. All for safety reason.

Sorry for the long post. It is really an interesting subject!

Cheryl said...

last time ew flew was with Air Malaysia. Some poretty long flights (11 hours +) and only 1 hot meal. Then there were the usual restrictions wrt liquids (fair enough) except they no longer suplpied even the most basic of in flight essentials like tooth paste. So what was a person to do.

but at least we had our own TV screen so as we were travelling with a child a shouldn't complain. Imagine a laul haul with back to back TMNT. Am so glad I don't have to share screen/movies anymore on flights :-)

Dan (Edinburgh) said...

For me, KLM has always been a good flight between Europe and Africa or Asia. In part because the food isn't too bad, but also because many of their economy seats have individual screens and a vast range of movies to watch.

South African Airways - both internal and international - have been good, usually with South African beer and wine en-route for international destinations, making me feel like I've arrived before I have done.

The worst airline memory - flying to the Gambia with some friends about 10 years ago and seeing the aircrew struggling to close the cabin door. Something that wasn't particularly reassuring.

Kim Wildman said...

Thank you all for your wonderful feedback. I haven't yet flown on China Eastern or Air China (that's probably because I hang out way too much in Africa!), so can't comment and it has been many years since I have flown on Garuda - though after their most recent accident last year, I won't be rushing back! Long live Singapore I say!