The world’s best airline for 2018 has been announced – and the winner is no stranger to the accolade, picking up the top gong for the fifth time in a row.

Air New Zealand is the recipient of the number one placing by AirlineRatings.com in its annual assessment of the world’s carriers, ranking ahead of its antipodean rivals Qantas and Singapore Airlines. Virgin Australia came fourth ahead of Virgin Atlantic in fifth, while Etihad, All Nippon Airways (ANA), Korean Air, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines completed the top 10

The world’s 10 best airlines according to AirlineRatings.com

  1. Air New Zealand
  2. Qantas
  3. Singapore Airlines
  4. Virgin Australia
  5. Virgin Atlantic
  6. Etihad Airways
  7. All Nippon Airways
  8. Korean Air
  9. Cathay Pacific
  10. Japan Airlines

“Whether number one or number 10, these airlines are the best of the best – the elite in aviation,” the judging team said.

AirlineRatings.com uses 13 criteria to create its rankings, examining the safety record of carriers (airlines must have a seven-star safety rating) as well as taking into account innovations in passenger comfort, passenger reviews, fleet age and environmental credentials.

It says the judging team places particular significance on the quality of premium economy seats on long-haul aircraft, which it says are “without a doubt the best value proposition for the passenger and airline”, and also checks that business class has flat beds.

“We are looking for leadership and airlines that innovate to make a real difference to the passenger experience, particularly in economy class,” the team said.

It said that though Air New Zealand topped the rankings for the fifth consecutive year, Qantas and Singapore Airline, both rolling out new aircraft in the form of Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s, are catching up.

Of Air New Zealand, AirlineRatings.com said: “Air New Zealand is being honored for the fifth consecutive year for its continued record-breaking financial performance, in-flight innovations, environmental leadership, young fleet and motivation of its staff. These factors have stamped the airline as an industry trends.

“Air New Zealand came out number one – or equal first – in all of our audit criteria, which is an exceptional performance.”

Europe’s only entry to the top 10 was Virgin Atlantic, which was praised for its “in-flight product and service”.