Singapore Air Wins World Airlines Awards As Delta, American And United Fall Behind

06-Aug-2018 Intellasia | Forbes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The 2018 World Airline Awards were announced late last month by Skytrax, a British consultancy that reviews and ranks world airlines and airports. Skytrax, which has been giving out the Awards since 1999, describes them as the Passenger’s Choice Awards as results were based on a claimed 24.4 million entries voted by customers.

Singapore Airlines was named top airline in the world, followed by Qatar Airways, ANA All Nippon Airways and Emirates, with EVA Air coming in fifth. Singapore’s award citation reads, “Flying one of the youngest aircraft fleets in the world to destinations spanning a network spread over six continents, the Singapore Girl is an internationally-recognisable icon providing the high standards of care and service that customers have come to expect of Singapore Airlines.”

The top ten airlines on the list was remarkably stable from last year. Nine of the ten airlines in the top ten were there in 2017 as well. Qatar and Singapore swapped places since the last survey, with Qatar voted ‘best’ in 2018. As Tim Clark President, Emirates, a recent ‘World’s Best Airline’ winner, has said, “These awards are widely regarded as the industry’s benchmark for excellence.”

US airlines performed abysmally in the 2018 Airline Awards, as they have done most of the time since the awards have been introduced. Do the awards represent reality for US airlines or are American carriers getting a bum rap?

“I tend to think that US airlines are better than a lot of people think, if not as good as some of these airlines,” says Brian Sumers, Airline Business Reporter at Skift. “These airlines are often government supported and have a vested interest in being 5-star. It’s a point of national pride. After all, what else do people know Qatar for? It’s also hard to know if many of these airlines are running in the black.”

For many countries, having a highly-rated airline can also help promote the nation as a tourist destination, and part of the destination is the journey. “Singapore is a hot destination now,” Sumers says. “When they think about going to Singapore they think about this amazing airline. ”

Long recognised around the world as an outstanding airline, Singapore’s win was written up around the world. But few publications have remarked about how US airlines fared on the survey, perhaps because their performance was so unremarkable.

USA Today, for example, ran a slideshow of the top 20 airlineswithout revealing that there was not a single US carrier among them. The highest-placing US airline was Delta, which finished in 37th place. That meant it finished below Aeroflot (23), Norwegian (32nd) and Malaysia Airlines (34), an airline that lost two aircraft in the last five years and still hasn’t located one.

Delta fell six places from its #32 rating in 2017. American, the world’s largest airline by fleet size and revenue, finished at a distant #71 on the list, marginally improved from its #74 performance in 2017.

Perhaps the worst performance by a US airline was turned in by United. The airline finished 88th on the list, a drop of ten points from 78th in 2017. That put it below sardine-packed discount carrier Ryanair (64th) as well as lesser-known Juneyao Airlines (81), Air Dolmiti (83) and Vistara (86). As Sumers noted, “United has certainly has some well-publicised customer service issues.”

Instead of striving to win customer accolades, US airlines seem to want to show that they are “less worst.” For example, American recently announced that as of September 5, 2018, Basic Economy passengers can carry on a small piece of luggage and stow it in the overhead bin.

Actually, other surveys, like the Airline Quality Rating (AQR), which tracks only domestic US airlines, says quality ratings have improved each year for the past three years (2015, 2016, 2017). US airlines have improved in three of four key areas during that time, including mishandled baggage, involuntary denied boardings (which improved to 0.34 per 10,000 passengers in 2017 from 0.62 per 10,000 in 2016) and lower consumer complaints. Only on-time arrival was down (80.2 percent in 2017 compared to 81.4 percent in 2016). In general, says Brian Sumers, “Flying in the US in a much better experience than it was 10 years ago. Now you have WiFi,, you can change your ticket online, the planes are more on time. Flying in 2008 airlines had no money, so some seats were broken, no WiFi, pilots were furloughed, and so on.”

Sumers believes the US carriers take more criticism than they deserve. “US Airlines are solid, well-run airlines that people shouldn’t ashamed of. They’re not subsidised, they have to be all things to all people. US airlines are probably 3-star airlines but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”

What do US airlines need to improve to become “top ten” airlines? Sumers says, “Let’s talk honestly here, they don’t want to be top ten airlines. To be top ten, you have be dedicated, charge higher fares and be smaller so you can control the experience. US airlines want to be solid airlines that people like and want to fly.”

Can US flyers prod their airlines towards excellence?

“They have to be willing to spend more money on their tickets,” says Sumers. “Life is not all about seat pitch. If you want more space, buy it.”


Category: Singapore

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