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Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways CEO and his staff celebrate the win

Qatar Airways has regained the top spot in the Skytrax World’s Best Airline rankings, after slipping to second place last year.

The coveted award comes at a difficult time for the airline, which is having to deal with the fallout of a blockade enforced by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt.

In a statement, Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker said:

“At these difficult times of illegal bans on flights out of my country by big bullies, this is an award not to me, not to my airline, but to my country.”

As well as winning best airline this year, Qatar Airways also took several other Skytrax awards. These included Best Airline in the Middle East, World’s Best Business Class and the World’s Best First Class Airline Lounge.

However, it didn’t retain two of the other titles it won last year – Best Business Class Airline Lounge and Best Airline Staff in the Middle East.

World’s top 10

While Qatar Airways regained the top spot, last year’s winner, Emirates, fell to fourth place this year.

Qatar Airways / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar Airways’ other main regional rival Etihad is in eighth place this year, down from sixth in 2016.

Here’s how the top ten looks:

  1. Qatar Airways
  2. Singapore Airlines
  3. ANA All Nippon Airways
  4. Emirates
  5. Cathay Pacific
  6. EVA Air
  7. Lufthansa
  8. Etihad Airways
  9. Hainan Airlines
  10. Garuda Indonesia

Customer votes

To decide this year’s winner, Skytrax analyzed 19.87 million survey entries from the website

Surveys were filled out by people of 105 nationalities in English, Spanish and Chinese, and submitted from August 2016 until May 2017.

Richard Lee/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Travelers were polled on 49 performance indicators, including customer satisfaction with check-in, boarding, seat comfort, cabin cleanliness, food, beverages and staff services.

In 2014, Etihad asked to withdraw from the Skytrax rankings over concerns about its methodology.

However, the organization insists on its website that it works on a not-for-profit basis and that it applies “rigorous” monitoring during its survey process.

“The integrity and reputation of the Skytrax Passenger’s Choice Awards relies on the ability to maintain transparency across all areas of the survey and awards format,” it said.

QSuite launch

Despite Qatar Airways’ recent woes as a result of restricted airspace and a boycott of many regional routes, it is still forging ahead with its ambitious plans for growth.

Qatar Airways

The new “QSuite” in Business Class

These include the launch of a major revamp of its Business Class product, the so-called “QSuite.”

The first of the airline’s aircraft to be fitted with the seats, a Boeing 777, is currently on show at Le Bourget in Paris.

It will take to the skies with passengers on the Doha to London Heathrow route on June 24.


Hamad International Airport

Sanjiban Ghosh/Flickr

Hamad International Airport

For the third consecutive year, Hamad International Airport (HIA) has been named the best airport in the Middle East, according to Skytrax.

HIA also once again joined the shortlist as one of the top 10 airports in the world.

This year, it jumped four spots to #6, beating out the likes of Zurich, Heathrow and Frankfurt.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s Changi Airport once again ranked first in the world in 2017. It was followed by Japan’s Tokyo Haneda International Airport and then South Korea’s Incheon International.

The award comes a few months after HIA was awarded five-star status by Skytrax.

Qatar’s airport is one of only six globally to hold that status, and was the first in the Middle East to nab the honor.

Climbing in the ranks

HIA’s Skytrax rankings have been climbing steadily since the airport opened in 2014.

In response to yesterday’s awards, the airport said on Twitter, “We are (grateful) to our staff and partners who help achieved these awards, and brought further success to the State of Qatar.”

According to Skytrax, its airport rankings are drawn from customer nominations from around the world.

Airports are evaluated based on 39 key performance indicators, including check-in, arrivals, transfers, shopping, security and immigration.

Sanjiban Ghosh/Flickr

Hamad International Airport

On its website, Skytrax said HIA “has been described as the most architecturally significant terminal complex in the world, as well as being the most luxurious.”

HIA has consistently received high scores for cleanliness, WiFi connectivity and shopping options. It also has a spa, pool and playgrounds for kids.

Expansion afoot

However, on Skytax’s passenger feedback website, HIA has a score of 6/10. This is in part because visitors continue to lament long lines at immigration and security.

The congestion has only worsened as the airport began operating beyond its capacity of 30 million passengers last year.

V Anand Kumar (@VAK_305) / Twitter

Queueing for immigration at Hamad International Airport

Traffic jumped 20 percent in 2016, to some 37.3 million travelers, according to airport figures.

HIA added Concourses D and E last year, and plans are now afoot to expand the airport to handle some 50 million passengers annually.

Officials have previously stated a 2020 goal for completion for that expansion.


Damon McDonald/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Hamad International Airport (HIA) has been awarded five-star status by Skytrax.

This makes Qatar’s airport one of only six globally to be given the accolade, and the first in the Middle East to nab the honor.

Speaking to media yesterday, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker – whose airline manages the airport – said that HIA was “designed and built in the modern era, taking into account what passengers want most: convenience and service.”

The other Skytrax 5-star airports are Hong Kong International, Munich, Seoul Incheon, Singapore Changi and Tokyo Haneda.

Skytrax ranks HIA’s regional rival Abu Dhabi International as four-star, Dubai International is three stars.

Rating system

According to the Skytrax website, the London-based company rates airports via “a detailed quality analysis” of almost 500 “airport product and service items.”

Factors that are taken into account include departures, transfers, customer service, security, immigration, shopping outlets and food and beverage facilities.

However, Skytrax does not explain how the evaluations are carried out, or by whom. Its website states that this information is only disclosed to airport operators.

Long lines

Five-star Skytrax status notwithstanding, many passengers still appear to be lukewarm about Qatar’s airport experience.

In addition to its own ratings, Skytrax lists ratings for airports and airlines around the world on its website that are based on passenger feedback.

According to that, HIA is 6/10, putting it in the same group as airports like Hamburg, Hyderabad, Rotterdam and Malta.

@RoryWSJ / Twitter

@RoryWSJ / Twitter

Recent customer reviews on the Skytrax site give HIA high scores for cleanliness, WiFi connectivity and shopping options.

But the airport got poor marks for having long lines at immigration and security.

On Jan. 2, 2017,  passenger J. Grimshaw shared this experience of arriving at HIA:

“We waited almost 2.5 hours at immigration. It was an absolute disgrace. The lines were so long they exceeded the roped off queuing areas.

Mums and dads were struggling with exhausted children, carrying them for hours. We have never had such a bad experience.”

Other passengers describe the queues for transit travelers at security as “a nightmare, everyone in a rush and cramming through” and the queues at immigration as “a clear example of excellent infrastructure but (an) extraordinarily poorly managed airport.”

E-gate changes

Last year, Al Baker attributed the delays to staff shortages.

He said that his airline and the Ministry of Interior – whose staff man the immigration desks – were “trying to resolve the issue as a team.”


Egate service

In recent weeks, the MOI has made changes to the e-gate system so that expat travelers over the age of 18 no longer need to register and pay for the service.

This allows many people to skip immigration queues. However, adults traveling with children and expats without residence permits must still wait in line.