The aviation sector has had a peculiar year, with many airlines grounding planes for large parts of 2020.

However, when air travel resumed in some areas, has released its yearly round-up of the world’s finest airlines, ready to assist travellers in deciding which airline to fly again.

The Airline Excellence Awards are compiled by the Australia-based aviation safety and product rating agency based on criteria such as fleet age, passenger feedback, and product offerings. This year, the team of global editors also included airline Covid-19 answers in the mix.

So, for 2021, there’s a new number one: Qatar Airways moved up the rankings to take the top spot, defeating previous winner Air New Zealand, which had topped the list six times in the previous several years but came in second this year.

Qatar Airways’ response to the pandemic, according to Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of, sealed the deal.

“Qatar Airways has always figured highly in our rankings, winning various awards such as Best Business Class but it was the airline’s commitment to keeping its route network largely open that attracted the judges’ praise — and votes,” says Thomas.

The airline’s repatriation flights, as well as its effort to making the pandemic flying experience as safe as possible, are also mentioned by Thomas.

In November, regularly publishes its top airlines for the coming year. Because of the epidemic, the aviation safety and product rating organisation had to make certain changes.

“We pushed the 2021 announcement into the 2021 year due to the chaos of Covid and we wanted to see how the industry would handle the pandemic over a longer period of time before making selections,” explains Thomas.

Normally, judges consider profitability while ranking the top airlines, but this year, because to the significant financial impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry, finances were not taken into account.

“We had to drop that this year because virtually all airlines are losing money,” says Thomas.

Singapore Airlines, which ranks third this year, joins Qatar Airways and Air New Zealand in the top five. Singapore Airlines has previously won the award for best airline in 2019.

Qantas is ranked fourth on’s list. AirlineRatings separately named the Australian carrier the world’s safest airline earlier this year.

Emirates, situated in Dubai, is ranked fifth.

In addition to the top 20 ranking, also gave out accolades for airline offerings, such as best first class (Singapore Airlines), best cabin staff (Virgin Australia), and best airport lounges (Qantas).

Meanwhile, EasyJet was named Europe’s best low-cost airline, while Jetstar was named Asia/Pacific’s best low-cost airline, and Southwest was named Americas’ top low-cost airline.

The top 20 airlines according to for 2021:

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

Qatar Airways’ group chief executive stated in a statement that the airline has endured some of the worst days in the industry’s history, but that the Doha-based airline has continued to operate. Qatar Airways, he said, continued to achieve new heights and set industry norms. “On behalf of all of us at Qatar Airways, thank you for this distinguished recognition as Airline of the Year for 2021,” he added.


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