Why no African airline occupies top slot in new global ranking


Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. FILE PHOTO | NMG

African airlines have once again missed out on the world’s best carriers in the latest global rankings, with top slots taken by Middle Eastern, Asian and European airlines.

None of the African carriers has appeared in the top 10 best airlines globally in the ranking by This means the airlines need to invest heavily on their lounges, improve on the ambience of their first class and invest heavily on inflight entertainment, which are some of the key parameters used to determine the ranking.

The Airline Excellence Awards cover the best in the aviation world, recognising the classiest airline lounges, finest first class cabins and most exciting in-flight entertainment.

Air New Zealand was nominated as the Airline of the year for 2020, rebounding to the top position after being toppled by Singapore last year. The carrier has, however, held position one six times.

"In our analysis Air New Zealand came out number one in most of our audit criteria, which is an outstanding performance when it is up against carriers with more resources and scale," Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of is quoted. says the carrier's record-breaking performance and inflight innovations coupled with its safety record and staff motivation placed it at number one.

The second position was taken by Singapore Airlines, All Nippon Airways (third) Qantas (fourth) and Cathay Pacific at position five.

A lot of African airlines are still struggling with high cost of operation and they may not have the luxury of investing a lot on some of the things the rating agency looks at, making it difficult for them to appear among the top performers.

Kenya Airways ratings on safety has all the seven stars implying high standards on this score.

KQ ranking was boosted last year after the airline received a nod from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly to the US airspace.

The safety ratings of an airline is also placed high if the carrier has not recorded fatal accident in the last 10 years. KQ has in the last decade recorded an accident-free history.

“One star is deleted from the rating if the airline has had any fatalities to passengers or crew in the prior 10 years. It is our view — and that of our safety consultants — that it takes up to 10 years for an airline’s safety culture to change after an accident,” says the agency.

“It can also take up to 10 years for the airline to replace older aircraft types, upgrade avionics or systems that may have contributed to the accident.”'s awards are judged by seven experienced editors using international industry and government safety audits, alongside 12 key criteria including fleet age, passenger reviews, investment ratings, staff relations, product offerings and profitability.

Ethiopian Airlines (ET) has previously been rated as the leading carrier in the region owing to its good financial performance on the continent. The airline also has one of the youngest fleet regionally.

On the safety ratings, ET has lost four of the seven stars as a result of the recent accident involving the carrier’s flight ET 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, which killed all the passengers and the crew on board in March this year.

The accident was blamed on a malfunctioning software that made it difficult for the pilots to control the aircraft following a stall warning.

Boeing has so far announced a software fix intended to make it less aggressive and easier to control.