This year’s World’s Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.
Though the past year has presented international airlines with numerous challenges, the high-flying brands that keep the world connected have persevered. And as travel restrictions ease, the best international airlines continue to impress Travel + Leisure readers with outstanding in-flight service, comfortable cabins, reliable operations, and food that simply wows.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. In the airlines category, readers rated carriers on cabin comfort, in-flight service, food, customer service, and value.
No. 3 Eva Air continues to climb in the World’s Best Awards, rising from No. 4 last year to third place in 2021. The airline specializes in long-haul trips to Asia from several U.S. gateways. “This is one of the best airlines I’ve ever traveled with,” said one fan. “Excellent service and food,” wrote another. “I can’t wait to fly them again,” added a third EVA enthusiast.
Boutique airline La Compagnie moved up in this year’s voting, landing at No. 5 thanks to its all-business-class service to destinations in France. This summer, the carrier added flights to Tel Aviv, and Milan flights are slated to start in November.
Readers also had high praise for No. 2 Qatar Airways. “Excellent crew, amazing food, it’s comfort on point,” as one respondent put it. “It’s really my favorite airline,” said another frequent passenger, who added that “the seats — even in economy and of course in business — are comfortable. The food and entertainment always exceed expectations. I really appreciate all their COVID-19 protocols. All in all, they are a class act!”
No. 6 Turkish Airlines returned to this year’s top 10 after not making the cut in 2020. No. 8 Virgin Atlantic moved up a couple spots. Meanwhile No. 7 Japan Airlines (JAL) held steady year over year.
A familiar winner was also the model of consistency at the very top of the rankings. Readers once again voted Singapore Airlines into the No. 1 spot for the 26th year in a row. Read on for the rest of the best international airlines, as voted by T+L readers.
1. Singapore Airlines
CREDIT: COURTESY OF SINGAPORE AIRLINES
Call it the king of the World’s Best Awards: Singapore Airlines is an unprecedented 26-time winner in T+L’s annual rankings, a year-in, year-out stalwart that impresses travelers with cosseting service, particularly in premium cabins. “We felt like we were at home,” gushed one voter who traveled in the airline’s ultra-luxurious suites. Many voters raved about the intuitive service on board, mentioning how flight attendants were always ready to lend a hand, refresh a drink, or go the extra mile. “Traveling with them is a dream come true — I’m not sure what more anybody could want,” said one impressed reader. Added another: “They’ve been my favorite for decades because they make most other carriers seem like amateurs.”
2. Qatar Airways
CREDIT: COURTESY OF QATAR AIRWAYS
3. EVA Air
CREDIT: COURTESY OF EVA AIRWAYS
More information: evaair.com
CREDIT: COURTESY OF THE EMIRATES GROUP
5. La Compagnie
CREDIT: COURTESY OF LA COMPAGNIE
More information: lacompagnie.com
6. Turkish Airlines
CREDIT: NICOLAS ECONOMOU/GETTY IMAGES
More information: turkishairlines.com
7. Japan Airlines (JAL)
CREDIT: STANISLAV KOGIKU/GETTY IMAGES
More information: jal.co.jp
8. Virgin Atlantic
CREDIT: NICOLAS ECONOMOU/GETTY IMAGES
More information: virginatlantic.com
9. Korean Air
CREDIT: MARCIO RODRIGO MACHADO/GETTY IMAGES
More information: koreanair.com
10. Air New Zealand
CREDIT: XINHUA/GETTY IMAGES