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Only one U.S. airline ranked among the 10 best in the world — here’s who came out on top

Airlines’ track records amid the COVID-19 pandemic factored in the new ranking

All airlines faced challenges over the past year, but some still performed better than others in terms of passenger experience and innovation.

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Many people are taking to the skies again after receiving their COVID-19 vaccination — so which airline should they choose?

According to AirlineRatings.com’s annual ranking, their best bet is Qatar Airways, which topped the travel search site’s list of the Top 20 carriers around the world. The rankings were based on a range of factors, including safety and innovation.

To be included in the list, an airline must have achieved “a seven-star safety rating,” the website noted. The ranking also factored in improvements to the flight experience and passenger comfort. Passenger feedback submitted through the website also played a role in which airlines came out on top.

“We are focused on leadership and airlines that innovate to make a real difference to the passenger experience,” AirlineRatings.com editor-in-chief Geoffrey Thomas said in the report.

Qatar Airways took the No. 1 spot “because of its cabin innovation, passenger service, and its dedication and commitment to continue to operate throughout the COVID pandemic.” The ranking noted that Qatar Airways was the first to be COVID-audited by AirlineRatings and airline consulting firm Skytrax. Qatar Airways also participated in the trial for the COVID travel pass created by the International Air Transport Association.

Air New Zealand AIR, -1.31% came in second place, while Singapore Airlines C6L, -0.81% took the third spot as well as ranking best for first-class accommodations.

Among U.S.-based carriers, United Airlines UAL, -0.88% performed best in the ranking, jumping to eighth place after not featuring in the Top 20 in the previous ranking. AirlineRatings.com attributed United’s climb to its recent announcement of plans to re-introduce Concorde-style supersonic jets to the aviation sector. In June, United announced it was buying a fleet of supersonic planes that could travel between San Francisco and Tokyo in as little as six hours.

Other U.S. airlines that featured in the Top 20 include Hawaiian Airlines HA, -0.96% (No. 16), Alaska Airlines ALK, +0.47% (No. 17) and Delta Air Lines DAL, -1.58% (No. 19). Here’s the full ranking, per AirlineRatings.com:

  1. Qatar Airways
  2. Air New Zealand
  3. Singapore Airlines
  4. Qantas
  5. Emirates
  6. Cathay Pacific
  7. Virgin Atlantic
  8. United Airlines
  9. EVA Air
  10. British Airways
  11. Lufthansa
  12. ANA
  13. Finnair
  14. Japan Air Lines
  15. KLM
  16. Hawaiian Airlines
  17. Alaska Airlines
  18. Virgin Australia
  19. Delta Air Lines
  20. Etihad Airways

A number of U.S-based carriers also featured on AirlineRatings.com’s separate, unranked list of the 10 best low-cost airlines: JetBlue JBLU, -0.83%, Southwest LUV, -1.15% and Frontier. ULCC, -0.07% That list was based largely on the airlines’ safety ratings.

“Each of these airlines has an excellent safety record and has made a big difference in their market,” Thomas said. “From Southwest Airlines which started the low-cost revolution in the 1970s to JetBlue which redefines the low-cost product, each airline has made a huge contribution to affordable travel.”

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