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Australian airlines Qantas, Virgin slide in global rankings

Qantas and Virgin have slid in the global airline rankings for 2024.

Qantas and Virgin have slid in the global airline rankings for 2024. Photo: TND

Qantas and its sister airline Jetstar have suffered a plunge in international airline rankings for 2024 since widespread anger about lacklustre service standards post-Covid.

But none of Australia’s airlines have managed to rank in the top 20 in the global stakes, with data published this week by UK-based Skytrax placing Qatar Airways in top spot, followed by Singapore Airlines, with Emirates rounding out the podium placements.

Qantas remained Australia’s top-ranked airline, placing 24th, which was down from 17th in 2023, while Virgin Australia ranked 54th, down from 46th.

Interestingly, Regional Express (REX) ranked 50th, up from 56th last year, putting it ahead of Virgin and also Qantas’ discount subsidiary Jetstar, which was 75th (down from 69th).

The rankings, compiled based on surveys of consumers globally, are closely watched by airlines around the world, but don’t factor in financial metrics to distinguish between different air networks.

Instead, consumers are surveyed on factors such as in-flight experience, value for money and the service standards within adjoining airports and lounges – more details are available here.

‘Apples and oranges’ airline rankings

Veteran aviation consultant Neil Hansford said readers should be cautious when interpreting the figures, because the Skytrack data comes from a private firm that is lobbied heavily by airlines.

He also said the figures ultimately compare “apples with oranges” because Australian airlines don’t benefit from many of the advantages that government-owned airlines overseas have.

That includes access to lower fuel prices in jurisdictions across the Middle East, which gives those airlines more money to invest in luxury services, particularly in premium classes.

“A lot of these airlines have an advantage of what they pay for fuel at their home port,” Hansford said.

“The Australian carriers get no free kicks. They pay some of the highest airport fees, very high fuel prices and employing anybody in Australia is penal because of what you pay.”

Qantas looks to consumer recovery

The slide of Australian airlines in the rankings can also be tied to sub-par service standards across the local market over the past year and steep hikes in the prices of airfares.

Government data shows on-time performance for Australia’s aviation industry has been far below long-term averages since Covid, with more cancellations and delays hurting flyers.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) figures have also shown that families have suffered huge hikes in airfares lately as the industry has rebooted after lockdowns.

But Qantas itself is looking to turn the page on several years of consumer anger about its offerings and is investing more money into improving the experience of flyers in coming years.

Under new chief Vanessa Hudson the national carrier has revamped its loyalty program and tried to draw a line under its scandal-plagued past by settling a huge consumer watchdog lawsuit.

Though some critics say the Flying Kangaroo is still leaving many Australians who had their flights cancelled during Covid in the lurch, and there are ongoing fears about lacklustre competition across Australia’s aviation industry since the latest discount entrant, Bonza, collapsed.

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