This Is the World’s Best Airline for 2021

The review site AirlineRankings placed this Middle Eastern carrier on top, citing its safety record, COVID-19 response and new products

A Qatar Airways flight prepares for landing at the Brussels Airport in Zaventem, Belgium, May 21, 2021. The carrier just topped AirlineRanking's Best Airlines list.
In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, Qatar Airways was applauded by AirlineRankings for its safety and innovation measures
Zheng Huansong/Xinhua via Getty Images

We may not feel comfortable flying to Qatar right now, but that nation’s airline certainly isn’t the reason, as Qatar Airways tops AirlineRanking’s annual list of best carriers.

The Australia-based aviation and safety rating agency noted Qatar’s “commitment to keep the world’s air routes open during COVID-19, innovation, new products, and world-renowned inflight service” as the reasons behind the airline’s win. They were also the first airline to complete the International Air Transport Association IOSA safety audit, first to be fully COVID audited and compliant by both AirlineRatings and Skytrax, and amongst the first to trial IATA’s COVID Safe Travel Pass.

“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,” as Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of, told CNN Travel .

Other takeaways from the rankings:

  • Some airlines were given specific honors, such as best first class (Singapore Airlines), best cabin crew (Virgin Australia) and best airport lounges (Qantas).
  • Last year’s winner Air New Zealand finished second, followed by Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Emirates.
  • Best domestic airline? Surprisingly, it was United, which was singled out for its “huge commitments to supersonic, subsonic, and electric aircraft to rejuvenate its fleet and offer passengers the very best in comfort and eco-technology.”
  • Hawaiian, Alaska and Delta were the only other American-based airlines to finish in the top 20.
  • The best low-cost airlines weren’t ranked but placed in an alphabetical top 10: EasyJet, Jetstar, Frontier, JetBlue, Ryanair, Scoot, Southwest, VietJet Air, Volaris and WestJet.


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