AirlineRatings.com has again named Air New Zealand as its 2018 Airline of the Year. It's the fifth top award in a row for the country's flag carrier. The editors at AirlineRatings.com used four major international industry and government audits, along with nine key criteria including fleet age, passenger review ratings, profitability, investment rating and key product offerings, all leading to Air New Zealand as the top pick.
Air New Zealand was chosen for its record-breaking financial performance, award-winning inflight innovations, operational safety, environmental leadership and motivation of its staff. The carrier has a strong commitment to a young fleet and focuses on the environment. “Air New Zealand came out number one -or equal first – in all of our audit criteria, which is an exceptional performance,” said the judges.
It also works hard to offer the best passenger experience on its long-haul flights. Economy passengers can buy the airline's famous Skycouch, a row of three seats that can be used to relax and stretch out in or as a play area for kids. Travelers are served food and wines of New Zealand, with the ability to pre-order special meals.
For those wanting extra room, the airline offers Premium Economy, with seats offering 41-inch pitch, nine-inch recline and a width of 19.3 inches and a five-inch wide armrest. it also offers a special food and beverage menu, premium check-in and an amenity kit.
Business Premium passengers have access to seats with a 22-inch wide leather armchair that converts into a 6-foot, 7.5-inch bed, with a memory foam mattress, duvets and pillows.
Meals come from Chefs Michael Meredith and Peter Gordon. There's also premium check-in, free baggage and access to Air New Zealand lounges.
Australia’s Qantas stayed in second place and Singapore Airlines remained in third place for the second year in a row. Both were lauded for rolling out Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s into their fleets, along with major overhauls of their inflight offerings.
Qantas' Boeing 787 Dreamliner features 236 seats in three cabins, including its Business Suite, nicknamed “mini First Class” by flyers, as well as a next-generation Premium Economy seat and a significantly improved Economy seat with extra storage compartments and device charging outlets. Food is created by Rockpool, an Australia-based portfolio of 60 restaurants and 16 dining brands.
Singapore Airlines' Premium Economy, in a 2-4-2 configuration, has seats that are 19.5 inches wide with a 38-inch seat pitch and an eight-inch recline. Travelers in middle seats have dedicated and spacious armrests. There's also a footrest and padding for calfs, along with a premium blanket and large pillow. The new Business Class features a 28-inch seat that transforms into a 78-inch bed with a cushioned headboard and bed linens, a duvet and pillows.
The new First Class has seat suites with 81 inches of pitch and 35 inches wide that convert into a lie-flat bed. The airline's famous suites offer travelers an individual cabin that has its own sliding door and window blinds.
Virgin Australia won fourth place for its new business class, that features a suite seat that converts to an 80-inch fully flat bed with luxurious pillows, a duvet, pajamas and a Mandarina Duck amenity kit with REN Skincare products. There are premium food and beverages from its 'The Business' menu designed by renowned Australian Chef Luke Mangan and The Bar, which offers a range of fine spirits, boutique wines, leading Australian beers and non-alcoholic beverages in a room for up to 10 passengers. Premium Saver and Premium guests have seats with extra legroom, along with free inflight entertainment and food and beverages from Chef Luke Mangan.
Economy class customers get free food, beverages and inflight entertainment.
The judges called Virgin Atlantic's inflight product and service "a clear leader." The London-based carrier's Upper Class seats are 22 inches wide and it turns into a 33'-inch wide, 6-foot, 6-inch long, lie-flat bed at the touch of a button, with a sleep suit and an amenity kit. The airline offers customized meal options, afternoon tea and a flexible food menu. There's also an inflight bar for socializing. The London-based carrier is considered the first to offer a Premium Economy cabin. It offers travelers a seat that's 21 inches wide, 38-inch pitch, a footrest and a headrest. There's also priority boarding and baggage handling and an upgraded meal service. Economy class features a choice of three meals, free beverages and an amenity kit.
Etihad Airways was praise for its continued leading role for offering a "magnificent product" in all its cabins. They include the famous The Residence suite aboard its fleet of Airbus A380s. The Residence includes a living room, separate bedroom and ensuite shower room, all overseen by a Savoy-trained butler. The airline's first class product, The Apartment, is a large leather armchair and separate lie-flat, along with privacy doors and access to a bathroom with a shower. Business class has a seat that converts into a lie-flat bed, hidden storage, a meal table and a separate large side table that can be used for laptops and other personal belongings while dining. Coach class passengers sit in Etihad's Smart Seat, which features a headrest that provides a shoulder to lean on and adjustable back support for a more comfortable flight, with generous legroom and recline.
In placing All Nippon Airways at number seven, the judges noted how the carrier continues to be a leader in Japanese aviation. First class passengers have access to a seat that converts to a lie-flat bed in a square-shaped privacy cabin. The bed features an ultra-light comforter, an air mattress, an Angel Float pillow and a blanket made with cashmere and organic cotton, along with knitted loungewear. There's a choice of Western or Japanese food options and beer, wine and spirits. In Business Class, passengers can sit in a fully flat "Staggered Seat" configuration offering aisle access and a bed pad, comforter and pillow. Premium Economy has 38-inch seat pitch, a leg rest and a footrest.
The judges noted how number eight on the list, Korean Air, has evolved into the country's top airline. The carrier's First Class product features Kosmos Suites 2.0, with an 80-inch long, 24-inch wide seat with an 83-inch space between seats. Travelers are offered Western, Chinese, Japanese and traditional Korean menus and top-quality wines. There's also a DAVI amenity kit. The airline's Prestige business class featured a 21-inch wide seat with 75 inches of space between rows, along with privacy and direct aisle access. business class featured a 21-inch wide seat with 75 inches of space between rows, along with privacy and direct aisle access.
Numbers nine and 10, Cathay Pacific Airways and Japan Airlines, were lauded for their "operational excellence and professionalism" as "two of the world’s most respected carriers." Cathay Pacific offers a First Class suite that features padded soft leather that is easily adjustable, with an in-chair massage function. The seat transforms into a lie-flat bed with a thick mattress and 500-thread-count cotton duvets, pillows and cushions. Meals include dishes from Hong Kong and China, along with a selection of champagne and award-winning wines. Business class features seats for sitting and sleeping, along with a sliding door for privacy. Premium Economy Class feature seats with an eight-inch recline, more legroom, a calf rest, a leather-padded foot-rest, and a supported headrest, along with special meals and beverages.
Japan Airlines features a sliding privacy door First Class suite with a seat 23 inches wide that converts into a lie-flat bed nearly 80 inches long, with plenty of storage and custom linens. Passengers can choose between Japanese and Western meals created by the airline's group of BEDD chefs, along with a Master of Wine for food pairings. The Sky Suite seats in JAL's business class offers a lie-flat bed, a privacy partition aisle access from every seat. Passengers also have access to curated Japanese and Western meals from the BEDD chefs. Premium Economy has a 38-inch pitch seat with features including a legrest, a footrest and a flexible headrest.
Other Award Winners
AirlineRatings.com also chose award winners in myriad categories to put the spotlight on carriers offering a great passenger experience.
Best First Class: Singapore Airlines
Best Business Class: Virgin Australia
Best Premium Economy: Air New Zealand
Best Economy Class: Korean Air
Best Cabin Crew: Singapore Airlines
Best Catering: Qantas
Best Lounges: Qantas
Best In-Flight Entertainment: Emirates
Best Domestic Class: Qantas
Regional Airline Of The Year: Aegean Airlines
Most Improved Airline: Tianjin Airlines
Best Ultra-Low-Cost Airline: VietJetAir.com
Best Long-Haul Airline: Etihad (Middle East/Africa), Korean Air (Asia/Pacific), Virgin Atlantic (Europe) and Air Canada (The Americas)
Best Low-Cost Airline: Westjet (The Americas), Scoot (Asia/Pacific) and Norwegian (Europe).