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AirHelp, a startup that advocates for air passengers’ rights, released its 2018 list of the world’s best and worst airports and airlines.

The rankings are based on a combination of quality of service, on-time performance, airline claims processing and airport feedback from passengers on social media. The company evaluated 72 airlines and 141 airports around the world in 2018, utilizing internal data and a number of other resources to arrive at the custom score.

Qatar Airways, which has held a place in the top three since AirHelp’s first report in 2015, finally claimed the coveted No. 1 spot this year. The airline earned the top spot after making improvements to its claims processing and on-time protocols. The ranking upset led Singapore Airlines to fall to fourth place, behind Lufthansa and Etihad Airways after Qatar. The five lowest-ranked airlines were Air Mauritius, easyJet, Pakistan International Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines and WOW Air.

“As competition stiffens between airlines, those that put passengers first will come out the winners in the long run,” AirHelp CEO Henrik Zillmer said regarding the 2018 AirHelp Score. He went on to congratulate Qatar Airways for consistently putting customers first, saying, “We hope more airlines take note of what these impressive competitors are doing, and ensure claims processing and on-time performance improve this year.”

The Big Three US carriers earned a mediocre showing in the ranks, with American Airlines at No. 24, and United Airlines and Delta Airlines both falling below the 50% waterline in the list, at No. 38 and No. 48, respectively.

Airports also experienced some ranking shifts as well. In addition to the best airline, Qatar also scored the title of best airport. Qatar’s Hamad International Airport (DOH), was followed by Athens International Airport (ATH) and Tokyo Haneda International Airport (HND).
London Stansted Airport (STN) and Kuwait International Airport (KWI) earned the lowest rankings. Only six US airports made it into the global top 50%, with Seattle (SEA) and San Francisco (SFO) the only two to break the top 50 spots at No. 34 and No. 46 – Denver barely missed the cut at 51.
Zillmer did not mince words explaining the US airport rankings: “It is clear the US is in need of significant improvement, with overbooked flights and cancellations making national headlines month after month, and the consistent mistreatment of US consumers.”

AirHelp, which helps travelers claim airline refunds for flight delays, said that “top performers have a common denominator”: customer focus. “They excel at on-time performance and at claim processing, and this is correlated with the feedback that passengers are giving on quality of service,” Zillmer noted. “It is clear that to make it to the top, you need to care for the passenger before, during and after their flight.”

At the end of the day, Zillmer stressed how important it is that “top-performing airlines focus on giving flyers the best experience possible, both in the air and on the ground.”

“The AirHelp Score assesses how airlines treat travelers under all circumstances – when all goes according to plan and when it doesn’t,” Zillmer said. “Passengers want to be treated fairly by airlines, and this is particularly the case when flights inevitably get delayed, cancelled or when travelers are denied.”

Since TPG also published its own list of Best and Worst Airline Rankings earlier this year, we reached out to AirHelp for additional insight on the company’s scoring system, which pulled all of the the 2018 AirHelp Score data between December 2017 and March 2018. For simplicity’s sake, AirHelp wrote off flight delays of 15 minutes or less as being on-time.

For airports, on-time performance and quality of service each accounted for 45% of the overall score, while the final 10% was reserved for passenger sentiment, which was aggregated from 184,000 English-language tweets about 141 airports. For airlines, AirHelp evenly weighted on-time performance, quality of service and claim processing, each of which comprised 33.33% of the overall airline score. To assess the claims process, AirHelp looked at customer data to evaluate the claims handling experience, the turnaround time involved, and the speed at which valid claims were paid out.

Photo by Florian Wehde on Unsplash.

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