Best airline of the decade named by travellers: Traveller 10th anniversary survey

Air travel has changed enormously for Australians over the past 10 years – for better or worse.

In 2007, Tigerair began services, bringing competition to the budget airline market as the new low-cost carrier took on Jetstar.

Meanwhile, Middle Eastern airlines aggressively entered the Australian market, following the lead of Emirates, to create more competition and options for Australians looking for flights into Europe.

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At the same time, competition on the Australia-US route also grew enormously, as US carriers returned to Australia with new or upgraded planes and Virgin Australia also launched flights to Los Angeles, resulting in a bonanza of relatively cheap fares that helped visitor numbers to double over the past decade.

While economy class passengers have increasingly felt the squeeze as seats became smaller and smaller as airlines tried to fit in more passengers, well-heeled flyers at the pointy end have enjoyed more luxury than ever.

Singapore Airlines launched private suites for first class, Emirates introduced on board showers and Etihad topped them all with its three-room residence class.

Business class became so good, with lie-flat beds and restaurant-quality food now standard, that many airlines started doing away with first class altogether.

See also: Dubai dumped as Qantas' London stopover

But which airline is the best of the past 10 years? To mark the 10th anniversary of the launch of Traveller in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, we asked you to tell us which airline you rated as the airline of the decade.

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The answer was unequivocal: Qantas.

Despite some ups and downs, literally, over the past 10 years, the Flying Kangaroo easily topped the survey to take the number one spot. It seems that incidents such as the worldwide grounding of the airline due to an industrial dispute in 2011, or the engine explosion on board an Airbus A380 in 2010 which saw Qantas and Singapore Airlines temporarily ground its super-jumbos, failed to dent Australians' love for our oldest airline.

In recent years, the airline has turned around its profitability, launched new routes and seats and impressed travellers with its excellent in-flight meals.

But Qantas' famous safety record remains a big factor for many readers.

"Not the cheapest but still the safest, which is my number one requirement when choosing an airline," said Therese Lynch of Canberra.

Others had more emotional reasons for their connection to the airline.

"Qantas every time," said Kate Regan of Moss Vale. "It gives you the feeling that no matter where you are in the world, home is not far away."

Warm, friendly and efficient crew look after passengers in Qantas A330-300 business class.

Kevin Whitton from Somers summed it up simply: "Qantas does Australia proud."

Singapore Airlines came in at number two. A brand that has managed to keep its name synonymous with high quality cabin service and cutting-edge interiors, Singapore has long been a favourite with Traveller's readers.

"The service is impeccable," said Kumar Sampath of Castle Hill. "Singapore Airlines goes the extra mile to make its cabin crew world class."

A group of Singapore Airlines flight attendants.

Photo: Joe Armao

Cathy Vincent of Hawthorn agreed on the service, sharing her own flight highlight: "Sneaky flight attendants filled my water bottle each time I fell asleep, taking it from my tray and returning it before I woke!"

Many Singapore Airlines fans also cited the carrier's hub, Changi Airport, as a reason to fly with it. "The terminals at Changi are a joy to explore, or relax in" said Ian McLean of Canberra.

See also: Why noone is flying first-class anymore

Emirates ranked third, with the Dubai-based carrier increasingly becoming the airline of choice for many Australians seeking connections into Europe and beyond. It was the wide variety of destinations the airline offers that was the selling point for many Traveller readers.

"Emirates has provided services to destinations that were previously difficult for Australians to get to and allowed us the opportunity to get to these places quickly," said Denis Doherty of Halls Head.

For those readers fortunate enough to fly at the pointy end, Emirates' business class was also a winner.

An Emirates Airlines cabin crew attendant stands in the new bar area for the Airbus A380 aircraft during the unveiling at the ITB Travel Fair in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Flying bars that cater to premium passengers on the world?s biggest fleet of A380 superjumbos are set for a saloon-style upgrade as Gulf carrier Emirates seeks to use the sky-high hangouts to lure affluent travelers. Photographer: Rolf Schulten/Bloomberg

Photo: Bloomberg

"Emirates business class seat is the best I have experienced," said Kerry Warner of Concord West. "Service, food and facilities are all first class, but at business class prices."

The top three airlines in the list received 60 per cent of the votes overall – a clear indicator that Qantas, Singapore and Emirates lead the pack when it comes to Traveller readers preferred carriers.

Your top 10 Airlines of the Decade

(Click on the links to read Traveller's most recent reviews of these airlines)

1. Qantas (Review: Economy class)

2. Singapore Airlines (Review: Business class)

3. Emirates (Review: Economy class)

4. Cathay Pacific (Review: A350 economy class)

5. Air New Zealand (Review: Premium economy)

6. Qatar Airways (Review: A380 business class)

7. Etihad (tie) (Review: Economy class)

7. Virgin Australia (tie) (Review: Business class)

9. Thai Airways (Review: Economy class)

10. AirAsia X (Review: Economy class)

What do you think of the results? Do you agree with the reader votes? Post a comment below and tell us your thoughts.

See also: Things you didn't know about world's first A380 'super jumbo'

See also: How much airline pilots really get paid

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