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Asia’s airlines are mostly excellent; Europe’s are competent; America’s are awful. It is a pattern that many seasoned globetrotters have observed, but which 1843 has confirmed by trawling through data on 18 major international carriers, visualised in the chart below.


We used flight-volume data from FlightStats.com and customer-satisfaction data from Skytrax, an airline consultancy which asks users to mark carriers out of five for the quality of their food, service, comfort, in-flight entertainment and value for money. American and United each scored 2.17 – barely half as much as leaders ANA and Singapore Airlines, both rated at 4.17.


For prices, we took the world’s 30 busiest airports in the last quarter of 2015 (as measured by FlightStats.com), and analysed direct flights between them on week-long return trips from a sample at the start of August 2016. Most of the 870 possible routes we looked at had a cheapest option, but across the whole sample few companies were able to charge much more or less than their rivals – as you would expect in a competitive market.


With so little difference in prices between airlines, the savvy traveller might as well opt for the comfiest seats, not the cheapest ones – and plump for Asian luxury over shoddy American service.






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I was just talking about this to a friend who travels often. He claims that trans-Pacific flights are the best, since they are long and the airlines have to provide decent food and plenty of movies. Most flights inside the US are for only 3 hours or so, and passengers can hold out without much food or entertainment. He says standards in Europe have gone downhill too, since flights aren't that long. A flight to the US from Bangkok, Seoul, or Tokyo is another matter.

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