What makes a great airline? Well for starters, it needs to be safe. Beyond that, passengers look for amazing customer service, beneficial rewards programs, onboard Wi-Fi, and in-flight entertainment, dining, and amenities. Several boast their own airport lounges where premium class travelers can while away a long layover.
But these international airlines all have something else in common: They are all the flag carriers of their respective countries. This used to mean that the airline was owned by the government and had the nation’s flag painted on the side. However, nowadays the term is used more loosely — flag carriers may not bear their country’s flag and may or may not be majority owned by the government.
You will notice one country missing from the list below: the United States. Why did we not include the cradle of aviation in our list of best international airlines? Because the U.S. got its very own list — check out the 5 Best U.S. Airlines Our Readers Love.
You will also notice that we did not mention flexible flight policies as they are subject to change. In the same vein, baggage allowance for each airline varies by itinerary and is often dependent upon a passenger’s destination as well as travel class and fare.
Without further ado, here are TravelAwaits’ Best of Travel Award winners for the best airlines in the world, according to our readers!
1. Lufthansa (Winner)
TravelAwaits’ 2022 Best of Travel Award winner for Best International Airline is Lufthansa. No stranger to accolades, this award-winning airline is a certified 5-Star Airline and the flag carrier of Germany. Founded in 1953, Lufthansa is the main airline of the Lufthansa Group, which includes other airlines such as Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, and Swiss International Airlines.
Combined with its subsidiaries, it is the second-largest airline in Europe in terms of passengers carried. According to Air Advisor, Lufthansa Group carried 46.9 million passengers in 2021. Lufthansa is also one of the five founding members of the world’s largest airline alliance, the Star Alliance network, which was formed in 1997.
Advance baggage check-in, in-flight meals, and entertainment are standard on all flights. Meals are served on fine china in First Class, Business Class, and Premium Economy Class. In-flight entertainment includes films, TV series, audiobooks in German and English, and music. Put on a Lufthansa playlist to relax while learning interesting information about your destination
There is also a focus on sustainability. The airline group is doing everything in its power to ensure a clear path toward CO2-neutral flying by the year 2050.
2. Air Canada
This year’s runner-up for Best International Airline is Air Canada, which has been around since 1937. Headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, it is the flag carrier of our neighbors to the north and the country’s largest airline. In fact, Air Canada is one of the 20 largest airlines in the world, serving more than 50 million customers per year in over 210 airports on six continents.
Air Canada is also part of the vast Star Alliance network, so you can redeem points from member airlines such as United to use on Air Canada flights. Aeroplan rewards members earn points on flights and more to use on future travel.
3. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Flag carrier airline of the Netherlands, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is headquartered in Holland. Its hub is Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, the main international airport of the Netherlands. Founded in 1919, it is the oldest airline in the world that has been operating under its original name for over a century. Part of the Air France–KLM group, KLM is a member of the SkyTeam, one of the world’s three major airline alliances.
Top destinations include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Cape Town, Kilimanjaro, London, Nairobi, Paris, and Rome. Flying Blue, the Air France-KLM loyalty program, rewards members for shopping and traveling.
4. British Airways
We are sensing a trend here as British Airways is also the UK’s flag carrier airline. Headquartered in London, it began as Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T) back in 1919. Offering extensive global routes, it is part of the International Airlines Group.
British Airways offers a range of travel classes to suit everyone from travelers who are looking for lower fares to those who prefer their own private “suites.” As far as food and drink goes, Speedbird Café offers a selection of Michelin-starred chef-inspired sandwiches as well as best-of-British brands.
Guess what? Icelandair is the flag carrier airline of Iceland. Perfectly situated between the U.S. and northern Europe, it is based on the coast in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and largest city. The airline offers an ever-growing network of international routes from its main hub at Keflavík Airport, also known as Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport, which is the largest airport in Iceland. It started as Flugfélag Akureyrar in 1937 and is now part of the Icelandair Group. Its partner airlines include JetBlue and Alaska.
Qantas stands for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd, and you guess it — it is the de facto flag carrier of Australia. It is also the country’s largest domestic and international airline. Founded in 1920, it is the third-oldest airline still in operation. The airline from Oz is consistently ranked as one of the world’s safest airlines.
Its “Flying Kangaroo” logo pays tribute to its down under roots.
Checked baggage, inflight entertainment, quality food and fine Australian wines, and amenities are included with each ticket. Qantas is part of oneworld Alliance, which earns members points as well as access to up to 620 airport lounges worldwide. Visit several Australian destinations at a discounted rate with Qantas Explorer.
7. Qatar Airways
You’re not going to believe this, but Qatar Airways is the state-owned flag carrier airline of Qatar. TravelAwaits writer Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey worked for the airline for a few years. In her love letter to Qatar Airways, she cites the airline’s “non-airplane food,” over 140 destinations, its sustainability efforts, and its tradition of welcoming passengers on board with cardamom coffee and dates. It also doesn’t hurt that Qatar Airways’ hub, Hamad International Airport in the capital of Doha, is one of her favorite airports.
Qatar Airways is part of the Avios loyalty program, which means you can collect and redeem points on oneworld and partner airlines such as Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and British Airways, as well as through hotels such as Marriott Bonvoy, car rentals such as Avis, and more.
8. Singapore Airlines (Tie)
Yes, Singapore Airlines is the flag carrier airline of Singapore. Based at Singapore Changi Airport (also known as Changi Airport), it has three subsidiaries: SilkAir, which operates regional flights to secondary cities, and Scoot and Tigerair, which operate in the low-cost carrier sector.
Known for its signature Singapore Girl, the world’s most awarded airline goes above and beyond to delight all your senses. Flight attendants wear signature sarong kebayas. The airline even has a signature scent, Batik Flora. Diverse dining and wine pairing options are sampled under cabin pressure to ensure they taste just as good at 30,000 feet.
Singapore Airlines is known for its long routes. Forget seats that recline all the way, this luxury airline has full-on suites with actual beds!
There are two ways to earn rewards with Singapor Airlines: KrisFlyer a status is earned based on miles flown, and the exclusive PPS Club, which is based on how much you spend for seats in premium cabins.
8. Virgin Atlantic (Tie)
Founded by record label owner-turned-space cadet Sir Richard Branson in 1984, Virgin Atlantic is tied for eighth place in our Best of Travel awards run for Best International Airline. The British airline is based at Gatwick, Heathrow, and Manchester airports. It operates long-haul services from Heathrow to major U.S. cities as well as Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Shanghai, Delhi, and Lagos among other routes.
In the past decade, Virigin Atlantic has formed an alliance with Delta Airlines and joined forces with Air France KLM to offer its customers an even larger network and better value.
Virgin Atlantic offers three ways to fly Economy: Economy Light, Economy Classic, and Economy Delight. Economy Light does not include a checked bag, while Economy Classic does — in addition to advanced seat assignment. Economy Delight offers all this and more, including extra legroom and priority boarding. See how they measure up to Premium and Upper Class here. Virgin Atlantic also offers student discounts and a Flying Club rewards program. No matter what class you fly, enjoy a curated selection of movies, music, and TV shows via Vera onboard entertainment.
Fun Fact: Vivienne Westwood redesigned the airline’s iconic red uniforms that are made from 25 percent recycled plastic.
10. Air France
Headquartered in Tremblay-en-France, Air France is the national airline (that is, the flag carrier) of France. Its main hub is Charles de Gaulle, which is one of the best international airports according to our readers.
Founded in 1933, Air France serves around 200 destinations from Africa and Asia to North and South America. A subsidiary of the Air France–KLM Group, the airline uses the same loyalty program as KLM, Flying Blue. It was also a founding member of SkyTeam.
Air France takes “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” to heart by sprinkling its je ne sais quoi throughout the flight experience. Cabins include La Premiere, Business, Premium Economy, and Economy. In addition to in-flight entertainment options, the Air France Play app lets you read newspapers and magazines from your mobile device or tablet during the trip. Expect gourmet cuisine on long-haul flights and a wine list that reflects the best of French terroirs.
With sustainable air travel in mind, the Air France ACT is a program committed to concrete actions like reducing CO2 emissions by 30 percent per passenger per kilometer by 2030.
- 5 Best U.S. Airlines Our Readers Love
- 8 Top Airports In The U.S. Our Readers Love
- 6 Top Airports Around The World, According To Our Readers
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