Find the Best Airline for 2021: Rankings for Safety, Cost, & More

Introduction to Airline Rankings

Airline rankings give travelers valuable insight into the quality of service they are likely to receive from different carriers. Knowing which airlines provide the best value for money, safety, and overall customer experience can help travelers make an educated decision when booking a flight. In this guide, we will explore the criteria used to rank airlines, the best global and US carriers according to expert ratings, budget airline offerings, loyalty program comparison, baggage fees, in-flight amenities, and customer service. By the end of this guide, travelers will have a comprehensive understanding of airline rankings for 2021.

Defining the Criteria for Airline Rankings

When it comes to ranking airlines for 2021, a number of factors come into play. Passengers want to know which carriers offer the best value for their money, with safety and reliability at the top of the list. Other criteria may include on-time performance, customer service, in-flight amenities, loyalty programs, and cost effectiveness. In this section, we’ll look at the factors that go into judging the best air carriers for 2021.

Overview of the Top Global Airlines According to International Ratings (Skytrax)

Passengers, who are looking for the best overall flight experiences, turn to the ratings put out by international air travel rating agency Skytrax. Skytrax uses a comprehensive system involving surveys and analysis that focus on areas such as cabin conditions, safety, quality of service, food and beverages, passenger handling and more. The surveys use a simple scoring system from one to five stars to measure each airline’s performance.

The Skytrax organization currently ranks the top 20 global airlines by combining an assessment of overall customer satisfaction combined with an evaluation of the airlines’ product and service offerings. The following is a list of the top 20 global airlines in 2021 according to this organization:

  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • ANA All Nippon Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Emirates
  • EVA Air
  • Lufthansa
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Asiana Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Air France
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  • Qantas Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • China Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Aeroflot

Overview of the Top US Carriers According to US-Based Ratings (J.D. Power)

When it comes to choosing the right airline for your travel needs, ratings from J.D. Power are often used to help travelers make their decision. J.D. Power ratings give travelers a better understanding of airline quality based on factors such as price satisfaction, flight crew satisfaction, in-flight services, and more. Here is what you should know about J.D. Power ratings and the top 10 US airlines for 2021.

Overview of J.D. Power Ratings Criteria

J.D. Power’s Airline Satisfaction Study evaluates all major traditional carriers in the US based on six key factors: cost and fees; in-flight services; aircraft; boarding/deplaning/baggage; flight crew; and check-in. Each factor is rated on a 1,000-point scale where higher numbers indicate better customer service.

List of Top 10 US Airlines in 2021

  • Delta Air Lines: 844 points
  • Alaska Airlines: 822 points
  • Southwest Airlines: 805 points
  • JetBlue Airways: 800 points
  • American Airlines: 786 points
  • United Airlines: 758 points
  • Frontier Airlines: 692 points
  • Spirit Airlines: 647 points
  • Hawaiian Airlines: 636 points
  • Allegiant Air: 613 points

As seen in the list above, Delta Air Lines tops the list with a score of 844, with Alaska Airlines not far behind at 822. These two airlines have consistently been rated the highest in overall airline satisfaction for the past several years.

Overview of Budget Airlines

When travelling, it is important to weigh your options between a budget airline and a full-service airline. Budget airlines offer lower fares for travellers who are looking to save money on their next flight. On the other hand, full-service airlines may provide more comfort, amenities, and services such as food and beverages, lounge access, and priority boarding.

The pros of budget airlines include:

  • Lower ticket prices
  • Often fly point to point routes, making it easier to book direct flights
  • Flexible ticketing policies that allow free or minimal change/cancellation fees

The cons of budget airlines include:

  • Less legroom than full-service carriers
  • No pre-flight meals or drinks
  • Extra charges for carry-on luggage, seat selection, etc.

It is important for each traveller to consider their own individual needs when deciding which kind of airline to choose. Some travellers may be willing to sacrifice certain amenities in order to save money, while others may prefer the convenience of a full-service carrier.

Comparative Analysis of the Best Airline Loyalty Programs

Airline loyalty programs are a great way to save money on flights, get access to exclusive benefits, and make the most of your travel experience. In this section, we’ll review how airline loyalty programs work, compare loyalty programs for each of the top 20 global airlines, and list the top loyalty programs of 2021.

How Do Airline Loyalty Programs Work?

Airline loyalty programs allow travelers to earn points when they purchase flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and more. Points can then be used to redeem rewards such as free flights, upgraded cabins, and discounts on future purchases. Airlines also offer exclusive offers and discounts to members of their loyalty program. To join an airline loyalty program, you will need to fill out an application form and provide your personal information.

Criteria for Ranking Loyalty Programs

When evaluating airline loyalty programs, it is important to consider the following criteria:

  • Flexibility: Can your points be used with other airlines or hotels? Are there blackout dates?
  • Rewards: How many points do you need to earn before you can redeem rewards? What are some of the offers that are available?
  • Benefits: Does the loyalty program offer exclusive benefits to its members? Are there additional perks such as priority boarding or lounge access?
  • Ease of use: Is the loyalty program easy to navigate? Is it user-friendly?

Comparing Loyalty Programs for the Top 20 Global Airlines

The following are the top 20 global airlines according to international ratings (Skytrax):

  • Singapore Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • ANA All Nippon Airways
  • Emirates
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Etihad Airways
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Thai Airways
  • Lufthansa
  • EVA Air
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Air France
  • Qantas Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • China Southern Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Air Canada

For each of these airlines, we have evaluated their loyalty programs according to the criteria outlined above. The following are the top loyalty programs in 2021:

  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • Flying Blue by Air France/KLM
  • Asiana Airlines Airtel
  • United MileagePlus
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Etihad Guest Program

For more detailed information on each of these loyalty programs, please read our full guide on the best airline loyalty programs.

Review of Baggage Fees

When it comes to air travel, one of the most important factors to consider is baggage fees. In 2021, airline baggage fees vary from airline to airline and can add up quickly if you’re not careful. It’s important to understand the different types of fees for carry-on, checked and oversized baggage that airlines charge. Here we will compare the baggage fees of the top 20 global airlines.

For carry-on luggage, some airlines will allow you to bring a standard size bag onboard without any fees as long as the bag fits in the overhead bin. Other airlines will charge a fee for any carry-on bag, regardless of size. Some airlines may also have different fees depending on the route you’re taking or if you choose to pay at check-in or online. Additionally, most airlines require you to purchase priority boarding or a seat upgrade if you want to bring more than one carry-on bag onboard.

When it comes to checked luggage, there is typically a fee for each bag checked at the airport. Again, this fee can vary depending on the route, airline and size of the bag. Airlines might offer discounted rates for pre-paid baggage fees, so be sure to look into that option if you know you’ll be bringing more than one bag. Oversized bags are typically charged an additional fee, as well.

It’s important to take the time to research the baggage fees of different airlines before booking your flight. This can help you to save money and make sure you don’t go over budget when traveling. Below is a comparison of the per-airline baggage fees for the top 20 global airlines.

Comparison of In-Flight Amenities

When booking a flight, travelers should consider the in-flight amenities each airline has to offer. From budget airlines to business class, there is a variety of experiences and services available. To get the best experience, it is important to consider what amenities each airline provides and compare them to find the best option.

Budget Airlines

Budget airlines usually offer basic in-flight services at a much lower cost. Generally, economy seating is available with fewer bells and whistles than some of the full-service airlines. Some budget airlines may even offer minimal meals or snacks.

Economy Airlines

Economy airlines typically provide more in-flight amenities than budget carriers do. Depending on the airline, economy passengers may have access to drink and snack service, limited seating options, and sometimes even inflight entertainment. Additionally, some economy class seats may offer more legroom.

Business Class Airlines

Business class airlines usually provide the highest level of amenities. Passengers can expect full meal services, complimentary drinks, multiple seating and entertainment options, and increased legroom. Business class flights also usually offer priority check-in services and additional baggage allowances.

Ranking the Airlines

To help travelers make the best decision when choosing an airline, rankings are available that outline the various airline’s in-flight amenities. Consumers can use these rankings to compare airlines so they can identify the one that offers the best in-flight service for their needs.

  • Skytrax 2021 World Airline Awards
  • J.D. Power’s 2021 North America Airline Satisfaction Study
  • The Points Guy 2021 Airline Survey

By referring to these rankings, consumers can be sure to get the best in-flight experience that meets their individual needs.

Overview of Airline Customer Service

When travelling by air, customer service is a key factor in determining which airline you choose. Good customer service can make all the difference in having a pleasant journey and avoiding unnecessary hassles. Here are a few basics to look for when it comes to airline customer service:

  • Friendly staff members who are helpful and accommodating.
  • Clear communication and understanding of passengers’ needs.
  • Ability to respond swiftly to customer feedback or queries.
  • Timely resolution of any issues that may arise from the journey.

Below are the top 10 global airlines that have been rated highly for their customer service in 2021:

  • Singapore Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Emirates Airline
  • ANA All Nippon Airways
  • Cathay Pacific Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • EVA Airways
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Korean Air Lines

Summation and Conclusion of Findings

When it comes to airline rankings, there are a few key factors to consider – passenger satisfaction, on-time performance, safety, cost, loyalty programs, baggage fees, in-flight amenities, and customer service. With the help of international ratings from Skytrax and US-based ratings from J.D. Power, we can compare and contrast the top airlines around the world and within the US.

From our research, we’ve seen that the top global airlines for 2021 are Emirates, Singapore Airlines, ANA All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, EVA Air, Lufthansa, Hainan Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, and Etihad Airways. For US carriers, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Alaska Airlines are ranked highest for 2021.

Budget airlines offer lower fares but may lack certain amenities or have more limited options. For those travelers who are looking to maximize their points and rewards, the best airline loyalty programs for 2021 are Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, and British Airways.

For those travelers who prefer comfort over budget, we’ve listed the best in-flight amenities offered by the top 20 global airlines. When it comes to customer service, the best global airlines for 2021 are Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, ANA All Nippon Airways, Lufthansa, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, and Hainan Airlines.

All in all, our guide has provided an in-depth review of airline rankings for 2021. We hope that this guide gives you the information and resources needed to make informed decisions when planning or booking your next flight. Airlines are constantly changing and evolving, so be sure to check back frequently for updates.

Resources for Further Reading

When researching airline rankings, it is important to take into account a variety of sources. To help you get started with further research, this article cites a number of sources that were helpful in assembling our rankings:

These resources provide an excellent starting point for further research on airline rankings. Additionally, travelers should make sure to conduct their own research when selecting an airline, as rankings can change over time.


In this guide, we explored the criteria used to rank different airlines as well as the top global and US-based carriers for 2021. We discussed the pros and cons of budget airlines, compared airline loyalty programs, analyzed baggage fees, examined in-flight amenities, and looked at customer service ratings for each airline. In sum, the most important factors to consider when choosing an airline for 2021 are cost, on-time performance, safety, and overall customer satisfaction.

We hope this guide has been helpful in providing useful information and rankings so you can make an informed decision when selecting your airline for 2021.

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