COMMENTARY: Canada’s airline rankings pale in comparison to global competitors

A view of Air Canada planes at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images File

Air Canada sits below 28 other airlines on Skytrax’s annual world’s 100 best airlines‘ ranking — but the same survey also names it as North America’s best carrier.

The ranking, which bills itself as “the Oscars of the aviation industry,” was created using data from an online survey taken by 19.9-million people. It asked consumers to rank airlines on a variety of topics.

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The first topic, “ground/airport,” asked about services such as websites, check-in times and airport staff. The second, “onboard product,” inquired about aspects such as seat comfort, food quality, cabin amenities. The final topic of “cabin service” asked about staff attitudes, family assistance, and problem-solving skills.

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Qatar Airways came out on top of the international ranking, followed by Singapore Airlines, and several other Middle Eastern and Asian carriers.

Air Canada ranked at 29 this year, WestJet at 58, Porter Airlines at 55, and Air Canada Rouge clung onto the list at no. 99.

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Air Canada was also awarded the title of “Best Airline in North America.”

“We are delighted to be recognized as the Best Airline in North America by Skytrax based on the opinions of those who know us best: our customers,” Air Canada President Calin Rovinescu said in a news release.

“This award is a significant milestone in the transformation of Air Canada into one of the world’s leading carriers and is all the more meaningful given the increased competition in our industry.”

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While Air Canada is boasting its victory — for the sixth time in eight years — other North American airlines have little to celebrate.

Plagued by this year’s passenger-dragging incident, United fell 10 spots to the 78th best airline in the world. American Airlines stayed close to the bottom at 74, although it did rise up four spots.

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So why are other airlines faring so much better than North American ones?

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“When it comes down to it, it’s money,” Mark Novak of Flight Centre told Global News. “North American airlines just haven’t been putting in the same kind of expenditure.”

Novak adds that airlines with more money can invest more into everything from buying better aircrafts to training employees and having better food on board.

As a frequent flyer, Novak says he’s taken every North American airline and he agrees that Air Canada offers an “all-around better experience.”

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“Air Canada comes closest to really trying to meet the difference between [North American airlines] and Emirates and Qatar,” he said.
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“They have the right to be proud, but I think they have a lot of room for improvement compared to the top 20 airlines.”

While it’s difficult for North American airlines to have as much funds as their Middle Eastern counterparts, Novak says they should work on bettering customer service. That means not over-booking, handling customer issues with care, and not letting other airlines capitalize on its shortcomings.

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“No waiting for another airline personnel to step in and buy people pizza,” he said, citing the example of a WestJet pilot who bought stranded Air Canada passengers pizza in February.

Air Canada later apologized in an e-mail for not providing food to its own customers: “Unfortunately the food service was closed.”

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