Three of the biggest Middle Eastern airlines – Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – have made it to the 2008 list of top 10 global airlines, according to the latest survey by Skytrax, a global air transport research organisation specialising in global airline and airport customer surveys.
Singapore Airlines flew away with the title of the world's top airline for the third time in 10 years.
Of the three Gulf airlines, Etihad Airways made a fresh entry to the list this year – occupying 10th position (ranked 23rd in 2007), while Emirates has maintained the same ranking as last year, placed ninth worldwide. However, the airline did win acclaim for the best inflight entertainment concepts for the fourth year in succession.
"Such growth and quality levels are never easy to maintain, but Emirates has managed to maintain its global rating this year, and can now use its Airbus A380 aircraft to try and impress passengers in the coming year," Edward Plaisted, chief executive of Skytrax, told Emirates Business.
"Throughout our rapid expansion, Emirates has consistently ranked amongst the top world airlines, and we will continue to work hard to maintain and enhance our service and product," said an Emirates spokesperson.
Etihad's success, meanwhile, is drawn from the airline continuing its rapid expansion with new route openings and aircraft acquisition besides delivering a high quality product and service offering to passengers, according to Plaisted.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways' chief executive, said: "Etihad Airways continues to expand its product and services, fleet and destinations and the Skytrax 2008 survey is further recognition that the airline has established itself firmly on the global aviation stage."
Qatar Airways, though it dropped rank to seventh this year from fourth last year, is still the highest ranked among the Gulf carriers. The Doha-based airline also earned the title for Best Middle East Airline 2008 besides being voted the airline with the best cabin staff in the Middle East.
"In terms of growth and expansion, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways lead the world, with new aircraft and new products being introduced at a very fast pace," said Plaisted, adding that it brings with it increased challenges in terms of being able to deliver consistent quality levels to passengers.
Sharjah's low-cost carrier Air Arabia, meanwhile, emerged as the best low-cost airline in the Middle East, with easyJet flying away with the top position internationally.
With regards to projections for the next year, Plaisted said: "At a time of general contraction amongst airlines in other global regions, I would expect to see the Gulf airlines' rankings move upwards."
New Gulf airports hold promise
Asked why none of the Middle East airports have so far figured in the world's top 10 airports list, Edward Plaisted said the current home bases of Etihad, Qatar Airways and Emirates cannot compete in being able to deliver the total passenger experience that one can receive in say Hong Kong, Singapore or Seoul Incheon.
"The airport sector is as important as the onboard experience. We are waiting for the new airports to come onstream in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai respectively, and believe that will be a major factor in propelling one or more of these Gulf airlines to the top of the world rankings," said Plaisted, adding that Qatar Airways Premium Terminal is though the best for First/Business class customers, it still lacks a direct airbridge boarding.
"Abu Dhabi is an older, crowded airport with poor facilities, and while the most modern airport in Dubai is much larger, it suffers from one of the worst overcrowding problems, and is not conducive to offering passengers an enjoyable airport experience," Plaisted pointed out.
Follow us on our social media channels: