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The world’s best airline is….

Not Qantas Airways Limited (ASX:QAN), despite its new alliance with Emirates.

But the ‘Flying Kangaroo’ does make it back into the world’s top 10 airlines, in the annual World Airline Awards.

Qantas fell out of the top 10 last year, dropping to 15 from 8 in 2011, but has recovered 5 places this year to come in at number 10. Virgin Australia (ASX:VAH) came in at number 13.

Qantas’ alliance partner, Emirates, was ranked the world’s best airline, ahead of last year’s number one Qatar Airways, which drops to number two, with Singapore Airlines holding down third place for the second consecutive year. As has been the case recently, Middle-Eastern and Asian airlines dominated the top spots. Not one US or European airline made it into the top 10.

The awards are determined by passenger surveys conducted by research firm Skytrax, which surveyed more than 18 million passengers, and covered more than 200 airlines. Emirates president Tim Clark says that the awards were regarded as the industry’s benchmark for excellence.

Qantas won the Best Airline Australia-Pacific, while subsidiary Jetstar Airways came second in Best Low-Cost Airlines behind AirAsia, and first in our region. Virgin Australia won Best Staff Service in Australia/Pacific, while Air New Zealand (ASX:AIZ) won three awards in World’s Best Premium Economy Class, World’s Best Premium Economy Class Seats and World’s Best Premium Economy Class Onboard Catering. Air New Zealand was also ranked 18 in the World’s Best Airline.

Expect to see Qantas and Emirates laud their awards in the months ahead as they attempt to attract travellers to their alliance and their individual travel offerings. Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has told Fairfax Media, “Skytrax is a leading indicator of passenger satisfaction. For both Qantas and Jetstar Airways to be recognised as two of the best reflects our investment in creating great travel experiences.”

Foolish takeaway

Qantas is on the comeback trail, as it attempts to turn around its underperforming international division, but it doesn’t have it all its own way. Virgin is ramping up pressure on Qantas Domestic, while Asian and Middle-Eastern airlines are competing more aggressively for overseas travellers. In the end, the winners are most likely to be passengers.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.

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