Flying is exciting the first handful of times you get the chance. What a miracle it seems, to be up above the clouds, above the birds, the skyscrapers, the hot air balloons, up where our ancestors could only dream of venturing.

But the more you do it, the farther afield you roam, the more flying seems like a hassle. Getting there is the boring part, something to be endured. But with a good airline, the whole ordeal can be substantially less taxing.

In that spirit, here are the 10 best airlines of 2018.

For the past six years, AirHelp has compiled lists of the world's best (and worst) airlines by grading them across three categories. These are:

On-Time Performance -- What are the odds this airline is running on time, based on their own statistics?

Quality of Service -- How friendly, efficient, and accommodating airline staff, both in flight and at the airport?

Claim Processing -- Does the airline fairly compensate passengers for delays and cancellations? How quickly do they process these claims?

Want to read about the airlines you should avoid? Check out The 10 Worst Airlines Of 2018.

10. Virgin Atlantic

On-time: 8.2/10

Service: 8/10

Claims: 7.9/10

Overall score: 8/10

The UK's Virgin Atlantic rounds out the top ten with strong numbers in all categories. Owned by the famous investor and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson, the fleet primarily operates out of London and Manchester. Most destinations serviced by Virgin are in the Americas (Boston, New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, Cancun), but it also offers flights to Nigeria, South Africa, Dubai, and the far east.

Passengers on TripAdvisor are generally complimentary about the service they receive on Virgin, though some note that the fleet has gotten older and economy sections are fairly cramped. Then again, you could say that about almost any airline.

A Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet taking off

9. Air Malta

On-time: 8.6/10

Service: 6.5/10

Claims: 9.1/10

Overall score: 8/10

In the past decade, Malta, a small island nation in the heart of the Mediterranean, has emerged as a premium destination. So it's only fitting their flagship airline has broken out as one of the best in the world as well, though its service is mainly local, focussing on Europe, North Africa, and the near east.

Service -- in the customer sense -- is also the factor holding the airline back from being even better. Customers opine that there are few in-flight entertainments or amenities, and that everything onboard seems to cost extra money.

8. Quantas

On-time: 8.9/10

Service: 8.0/10

Claims: 7.5/10

Overall score: 8.1/10

If the kangaroo in the logo didn't tip you off, Quantas is an Australian airline, and one of the best in the world. It's also the third oldest, having been founded all the way back in 1920. (I guess that makes sense since Australia is enormous and treacherous to cross without flying.)

Although it is the leading domestic carrier in Australia (its name being a quasi-acronym of 'Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services'), Quantas services travel hubs all over the world.

Passengers are generally impressed with the punctuality of Quantas, its spacious seating, its quality service, and its free WiFi.

7. Aegean Airlines

On-time: 9.0/10

Service: 8.3/10

Claims: 7.4/10

Overall score: 8.1/10

Greece may not be doing so well these days finance wise, but they still have one of the best airlines you'll find anywhere.

As we all know, many people who take the time to write an online review of an airline or a restaurant are doing so because they had an exceptionally distressing experience. Which is why it's pretty impressive than over 80% of reviewers on TripAdvisor rated Aegean Airlines as either 'Excellent' or 'Good'. In fact, 51% of those writing described their trip as 'Excellent'!

Customers note that staff are friendly, the planes are clean and on time, and the food is decent. However, Aegean's network is mostly limited to Europe and the Middle East, and their prices may strike some as expensive. Still, you're gonna get what you paid for.

Aegean airlines plane in flight seen from the ground

6. Austrian Airlines

On-time: 8.0/10

Service: 8.0/10

Claims: 8.9/10

Overall score: 8.3/10

Austrian Airlines is the flag carrier for that picturesque European nation, and also a subsidiary of the more well-known Lufthansa group -- more on them later. AA flies into more than 55 countries in North America, North Africa, Europe, and Asia, so you don't have to be summering in Vienna to try them out.

Customer comments are generally complimentary about flight attendants and in-flight meals, with one passenger remarking that there was an actual real-life chef aboard the flight. However, some others note that they paid for 'premium' economy tickets, but were seated in regular coach seats anyway, so that perk may not be worth paying for.

5. South African Airways

On-time: 8.5/10

Service: 7.8/10

Claims: 8.7/10

Overall score: 8.3/10

South African Airways flies into 26 countries all over the world, and also operates a low-cost domestic subsidiary called Mango. Its home port is Johannesburg.

According to passengers, the thing that really sets SA Airways apart is the amount of space and leg room in the cabin. But if you're on a long flight (and if you're flying from North America to South Africa, you surely will be), that's no small luxury.

However, some also noted that they were flying on planes that seemed to be outdated. Air travel in South Africa can be a bit sketchy, even on one of the best airlines in the world. But with South African Airways, you're at least assured of good service and a little room to spread out.

South African Airways plane on the tarmac.

South African Airways. Wikimedia Commons

4. Singapore Airlines

On-time: 8.5/10

Service: 9.8/10

Claims: 6.8/10

Overall score: 8.3/10

Now we're getting into some high quality air miles. On TripAdvisor, 83% of reviewers describe their experience with Singapore Airlines as either 'Good' or 'Excellent,' with fully 58% saying the latter.

Passengers consistently rave about spacious seating (even in coach), great food, modern planes, and service that goes above and beyond.

3. Etihad Airways

On-time: 8.6/10

Service: 9.3/10

Claims: 7.5/10

Overall score: 8.4/10

When you think of the United Arab Emirates, you probably think of wealth and the luxury that attends it. If you're willing to pay top dollar on Etihad, you can even get your own private pod complete with TV and room service. If not, well...

The jury is out where the online reviews are concerned, with some claiming that Etihad's business class is overpriced, or that for a supposedly elite airline its amenities are somewhat lacking.

Still, the overall numbers don't lie. Etihad will get you there on time, and their in-flight service is second-to-none.

Etihad plane on the runway, snow-covered grass

2. Lufthansa

On-time: 7.6/10

Service: 9.5/10

Claims: 8.6/10

Overall score: 8.6/10

It's especially impressive that Lufthansa managed to rank so highly on this list, given that it's actually the largest airline in Europe (taking its many subsidiaries into account). I mean, nothing against Air Malta, say, but the more you fly the more likely you are to encounter problems. Nevertheless, Lufthansa seems to handle those problems fairly well.

The most common complaints are delays, and that's reflected in the numbers. But passengers are very impressed with the way Lufthansa staff organize boarding and disembarking -- or maybe that's just a German stereotype!

The airline is also well-known for its professional and courteous staff. A personal story: once, a Lufthansa flight I had booked was delayed for an hour because of ice on the wings, so the flight attendants gave us all chocolate. Nothing brightens up an extra hour in Frankfurt like a little sugar rush, I'll tell ya.

1. Qatar Airways

On-time: 8.9/10

Service: 9.5/10

Claims: 8.9/10

Overall score: 9.1/10

Qatar is perhaps most famous for its corrupt World Cup Bid, its 'foreign worker program' that borders on slavery, and for its perpetual beef with neighbors Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But here's something positive to toss on the pile: the far and away best airline of 2018.

One passenger wrote on TripAdvisor: "In an 8hrs journey, I got a countless and endless offer of services. Stewardess go back and forth making sure that passengers were all hydrated."

That seems to be the consensus, with customers gushing about the decor, the staff, the food, the wine list -- everything really! If you're looking to make your flight as comfortable, safe, and timely as possible, you just can't do any better than Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways cargo plane on tarmac.

Well, that rounds out our list. What do you think? Do the scores accurately reflect the best airlines of the year? Do you agree with the ranking? Be sure to let us know. As always -- happy trails!

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