Ten great airlines that don't fly to Australia (yet)

When it comes to flying, Australians don't quite realise how blessed they are. Qantas and Virgin Australia are amongst the world's highest quality domestic airlines, and almost all of the best Asian and Middle Eastern airlines touch down on Aussie soil. But there are some quality carriers that don't come here, including…


Nine of the world's top 10  airlines, as judged in the annual Skytrax rankings, do have routes to Australian cities. The honourable exception is German airline Lufthansa, which is the largest airline in Europe by passengers carried and has routes to most of the world – just not Oz. Its main hubs are in Frankfurt and Munich, and Aussies are most likely to end up in Lufthansa metal when booking flights through Star Alliance partners such as Air New Zealand, United Airlines and Singapore Airlines.

Austrian Airlines

When the Skytrax rankings are broken down into class, you have to go as far down as 16th in economy to find one that doesn't fly to Australia. That's Austrian Airlines, which is a subsidiary of Lufthansa. It's based in Vienna, is also part of Star Alliance and has much the same codeshare agreements as Lufthansa. So when will Aussies end up flying with them? Aside from going to Austria, it's most likely to be on connections to the Balkans.

Oman Air

Switch to business class, and the highest that doesn't fly to Australia is Lufthansa in 11th, narrowly pipping 12th placed Oman Air. It offers an intriguing option for flights between Asia and Europe, with Oman a much more appealing destination to explore than the UAE or Qatar. It isn't part of any alliances, but has codeshare agreements with Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines and KLM, amongst others. See omanair.com


In the low-cost category, Air Asia wins with Skytrax, but second place goes to Easyjet, which has 29 bases around Europe. Despite the garish orange colour scheme, Easyjet has managed to avoid rival Ryanair's reputation for meanness, keeping the booking system relatively simple and the baggage allowances relatively generous. It's no thrills, but no nasties. See easyjet.com


Rival award-dishers AirlineRatings divides the airlines up into different categories, by region as well as service level. One of the most interesting 2019 winners was Canadian airline Westjet, which mainly serves North America and the Caribbean from its Canadian hubs, but also has a handful of trans-Atlantic routes. Generous seat pitch – some Westjet planes offer 36 inches in economy – is part of the reason for the popularity. Codeshare agreements are in place with Qantas and Emirates. See westjet.com


AirlineRatings picks out WizzAir as the best low-cost carrier in Europe, something that may raise an eyebrow to anyone who has actually flown with WizzAir. It is fee-happy, with very stingy baggage allowances and tight 30-inch pitch seats. What it does have in its favour is cheap fares, and lots of weird routes, particularly those involving Polish, Ukrainian, Hungarian and Romanian cities. See wizzair.com

Vietjet Air

The other interesting name in the AirlineRatings awards, which Australians might not be familiar with, is Vietjet Air. The winner of the ultra low cost airline category is most likely to be encountered on cheapo internal flights within Vietnam – Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City flights cost from $29. But it also has routes within South-East Asia and to China. Familiarity levels are likely to change soon, though – a route to Brisbane is planned. See vietjetair.com

Alaska Airlines

Domestic flights within the US are notoriously horrible, with airlines seemingly competing to see who can get away with treating customers most ropily. But they're not all totally shoddy, and Alaska Airlines came top of Money.com's annual study, rating airlines according to 39 factors such as customer service and on-time arrivals. The Seattle-based airline has several hubs on the US west coast, and codeshare agreements with Qantas – amongst several other airlines. See alaskaair.com


Virgin Atlantic

A major weak spot for the highest quality airlines is flights across the Atlantic between the US and Europe, and this is where Virgin Atlantic is often very appealing. It tries to play things a little quirky, with touches such as a standalone bar in upper class, but the real point of difference is a relatively affordable premium economy class – rated the best by Skytrax in 2019. London Heathrow's the hub, though there are also flights to other UK airports. There are also flights to Delhi, Hong Kong, Johannesburg and Shanghai, plus codeshare agreements with Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand. See virginatlantic.com


Standards are reasonable, rather than great, but the world's oldest airline has a mighty handy route map. Based in Amsterdam, KLM has plenty of European flights, but it is more useful for its multiple Asian and South American routes, plus some surprises from the US – such as Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. Part of the Skyteam alliance, key codeshares include Delta, China Airlines and Garuda Indonesia. See klm.com