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Travel + Leisure Readers Pick the World’s Best Airlines

Looking for travel suggestions? The results of Travel + Leisure’s annual best-in-travel survey were released this week, with recommendations aplenty.

The survey is nothing if not comprehensive, eliciting more than 200,000 readers’ votes for the best airlines, airports, car-rental agencies, cities, cruise ships, destination spas, hotels, hotel brands, islands, tour operators, and safari outfitters.

In the airline category, voting included appraisals of carriers’ cabin comfort, service, food, customer service, and value.

Best Domestic Airlines

In the latest survey, Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines traded places, but the five top-rated airlines remained the same as last year’s, with Virgin America claiming the top spot for the tenth consecutive year.

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

Conspicuously missing from the list are the Big Three airlines — American, Delta, and United. Through mergers and acquisitions, they now control a disproportionate share of the country’s commercial air traffic, and thereby set the standards for service and pricing for the entire industry. And they’re the least loved by the traveling public.

The consolidation story continues, with Alaska’s acquisition of Virgin American, and the incorporation of the latter, the country’s best airline, into the former.

Best International Airlines

As it has for 22 consecutive years, Singapore Airlines was rated the best international airline, which is tantamount to being rated the world’s best. Runners-up were Emirates and Qatar, which repeated from last year as the second- and third-ranked airlines.

The top 10:

  1. Singapore
  2. Emirates
  3. Qatar
  4. Cathay Pacific
  5. Japan Airlines
  6. Virgin Atlantic
  7. Air New Zealand
  8. Korean
  9. All Nippon Airways
  10. Eva Air

With seven of the top 10 carriers hailing from the Asia-Pacific, the theme is that region’s ongoing dominance. And unlike the domestic situation, there’s plenty of competitive pressure to keep raising standards higher.

Reader Reality Check

How do these results compare with your own assessment of the world’s best airlines?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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