'World's worst airline'? No, it's not Jetstar, regardless of what you've heard

If you read the headlines of some of Australia's news publications on Friday morning, you might be left with the impression that our own Jetstar had been ranked "the worst airline in the world". And as you would expect, Jetstar's not very happy about it. 

But is there any merit to the claim that Jetstar is the world's worst? Really?

In a world where Ryanair exists? The Irish budget carrier notorious for its exorbitant baggage fees, for charging passengers to print out their boarding passes, for suggesting it might start charging passengers to use the toilets during flights?

Or what about Air Koryo, the notorious North Korean airline that consistently ranks as the world's worst in the annual Skytrax ratings. An airline that serves only one dish on board – a burger made of a mystery meat that even Air Koryo itself won't identify.

Then there's the lesser-known carriers such as Nepal Airlines and 13 others from from Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nepal and Surinam, all of which only receive a one-star safety rating from AirlineRatings.com and many are banned from flying to any EU country. Jetstar, meanwhile, gets a seven out of seven score for safety.

See: World's safest airlines named

And let's not forget United Airlines, the US carrier facing a storm of bad PR after forcibly removing a passenger from an overbooked flight, an action that created such a backlash that the airline has had to change its policies. It will now offer passengers up to $US10,000 ($13,300) to give up their seats. Meanwhile, Dr David Dao, the passenger at the centre of the incident, has been compensated by the airline for an undisclosed sum.

So how is it, against carriers like these, that Jetstar can be ranked as the world's worst? Well, it pays to actually look at the detail of the survey.

Conducted by consumer groups around the world, including Australia's Choice, it turns out passengers from just eight countries were surveyed: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

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No one from the US, Britain or anywhere in Asia or Africa was surveyed, which means many key airlines were likely underrepresented (such as the aforementioned United and Ryanair). And in Australia not enough respondents had flown Tigerair for the budget carrier to be included.

And, crucially, Choice itself doesn't claim that Jetstar is "the world's worst", just that it came at the bottom of the survey.

"This is yet more evidence that Jetstar needs to clean up its act. It's one thing to be low cost but quite another to be low rent," said Tom Godfrey, Choice head of media.

"It's not too surprising Jetstar rated so poorly given its track record of delays and cancellations and its policy of landing its customers with sneaky pre-ticked extras."

Jetstar is understandably unhappy with the coverage, particularly with its rival low-cost carrier Tigerair not being included. This is understandable, given the latest statistics show Jetstar outperforming Tigerair for on-time performance (Jetstar at 69.9 per cent and Tigerair Australia at 66.2 per cent in March 2017). Jetstar says the average length of delay on the airline's flights is about 20 minutes.

Cancellations for both carriers were very low in March, with Jetstar at 2.7 per cent and Tigerair Australia at 2.4 per cent. Both did better than Virgin Australia, which cancelled 4.1 per cent of flights in March.

Compare this on a global scale of delays and these stats start looking pretty good. According to aviation insights company FlightStats' numbers, Israeli airline El Al only arrives on time 44 per cent of the time, while Icelandair only manages 59 per cent.

Nevertheless, Jetstar at least acknowledges it can do better.

"We recognise there is room for improvement and our team is doing a lot of work behind the scenes," the airline said in a statement. "Weather is often the source of delays, particularly in the more tropical destinations we operate to, and we'll always put safety before schedule."

So which airline really is the world's worst? According to Skytrax's annual rankings, Air Koryo still takes that title. While 20 airlines receive just two stars from Skytrax, Air Koryo is the only carrier to get just one star.

That's another thing for Kim Jong-un to be angry about.

See also: The world's worst airlines named

See also: World's best airline named in annual rankings

See also: Airline review: Jetstar business class to Japan

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