How does one decide which airlines are the world’s worst?
Poor safety or regulatory standards will be the most important factor for many people, and there are currently more than 100 airlines – most of which you probably haven’t heard of – banned from EU airspace, or facing operational restrictions, as they don’t come up to scratch. They include every airline from Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Sudan, as well as dozens from Indonesia.
The website AirlineRatings.com, meanwhile, awards carriers a star rating based on safety standards. Just 10 muster only a single star: Batik Air, Bluewing Airlines, Citilink, Kal-Star aviation, Lion Air, Sriwijaya Air, TransNusa, Trigana Air Service, Wings Air, Xpress Air.
Skytrax, another aviation ratings website, judges carriers according on the quality of their product and services.
Nine carriers (ANA, Asiana, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Hainan Airlines, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines) can boast full marks. There are 40 with four stars, including Virgin, Lufthansa, BA, Air France and – surprisingly, perhaps – Emirates, which was voted top long-haul airline by Telegraph Travel readers earlier this year. A total of 107 airlines have three stars, including Ryanair, easyJet, United, WOW, Wizz, Norwegian, Thomas Cook, Monarch, Jet2 and American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier.
But 21 airlines fall below that standard, according to Skytrax. Here they are (in alphabetical order):
Slogan: “We don’t just fly there, we live there”
2. Biman Bangladesh Airlines
3. Bulgaria Air
4. China United Airlines
5. Cubana Airlines
Slogan: “Cuba’s Gateway to the World”
6. Iran Air
Slogan: “Our Mission is Your Safety” & “We Take You There, We Take You Back”
7. Lion Air
Slogan: “We Make People Fly”
8. Mahan Air
Slogan: “The Spirit of Excellence”
9. Nepal Airlines
10. Onur Air
Slogan: “Fly Turkey, Fly!”
11. Pegasus Airlines
Slogan: “We Didn’t Start Aviation In Turkey, But We Transformed It”
12. Rossiya Airlines
Based: St Petersburg
14. Spirit Airlines
Based: Miramar, Florida
Slogan: “Less Money, More Go”
15. Sudan Airways
17. Tajik Air
18. Turkmenistan Airlines
Slogan: “Symbol of Hospitality”
19. Ukraine International Airlines
The worst airline of all? According to Skytrax, it’s Koryo Air, based in Pyongyang, North Korea. While all the others listed here received two stars, it was handed just one.
Previous passengers have described “perfunctory” emergency procedures, fizzy drinks that are “difficult to identify” and “uncomfortably loud” engine noise, while photographers on board its oldest aircraft have captured cockpits without digital screens and seats that fold forward. Furthermore, the in-flight entertainment usually consists of patriotic odes to the leader and indecipherable North Korean cartoons.
But not everyone agrees with the scathing verdicts. “It’s a bit of a giggle, actually,” Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours, an independent Beijing-based travel company that specialised in trips to North Korea, told Associated Press earlier this year. “It’s not Emirates. It’s not quite the flying experience people are used to… [but] they are clearly not the world’s worst airline.”
Indeed, some of the passenger reviews on Skytrax’s own website are in fact complimentary.
“Service was perfectly passable,” wrote one UK user earlier this year.
“The burger was quite tasty and I got a beer with it,” said another.
Even worse than Koryo might just be Baltia. Never heard of it? That’s because it has never flown once in its 27-year history. Founded in 1989 with the aim of offering a “high-quality three-class passenger service”, it is still awaiting its operational approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration. The airline is said to have failed the FAA evaluation seven times, apparently due to a problem with the deployment of its aircraft slides. Take that Koryo.