Connecting the far-flung reaches of Inner Mongolia with the bustling cityscapes of Beijing and Shanghai, the aromatic food halls of Taipei with those of Bangkok, the sunny beaches of the Vietnamese coast with the mysterious Khmer temples of Cambodia, the dive sites of the Thai Gulf with the surf spots of the Nusa Tenggara, and oodles of international destinations besides, Asia's airlines are among the biggest and best on the planet.
But which ones really top the bill? And who's most worthy of your custom? To be sure, check out this selection of the 10 best currently criss-crossing the skies of the sun-kissed region, which has been put together using the results of the prestigious Skytrax awards.
Now with a web of routes connecting the heady streets of Bangkok with the temple-peppered cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in Thailand's northern reaches, the sunny beaches of Krabi to the south and a whole host of other enticing spots — from the Maldives to Singapore and Vientiane — this burgeoning flier not only kicks off our list of the top ten Asian carriers in style, but also touts a Skytrax four-star rating and accolades for being the world's best small-scale regional carrier.
"Cherished Experience" — so runs the inviting tag line of the fourth-largest airline to hail in from the exotic climes of the People's Republic, and Skytrax seem to agree! Not only have they managed to squeeze into the top ten regional airlines for Asia overall, but they have also garnered accolades for having the best staff service in China and the best business class comforts and amenities in 2014. The news is particularly good for fliers out of New England, because Hainan broke new ground last year by becoming the first Chinese carrier to offer nonstop connections from Beijing to Boston!
National flag carrier and leading member of the Oneworld alliance, Malaysia Airlines currently offer their passengers no fewer than 114 international routes and 118 domestic routes across the Malay Peninsula. For fliers traveling short-haul, the carrier touts its Golden Club Class business equivalent (available on all Airbus A330-300s), along with economy seats with a pitch of up to 34 inches (one of the largest in the world). For travelers on longer flights, Malaysia Airlines' A380s now have the widest girth first class seats in the industry!
A traveler's ticket to the paradisiacal beaches of the Andaman Coast, the pearly white sands of Samui and the legendary bucket list parties of the full moon, Thai Airways are every inch the carrier you'd expect of the so-called Land of Smiles. Since the turn of the noughties, they have been expanding and refurbishing their fleet like nobody's business, adding Boeing 787s, Airbus A350s and even colossal Airbus A380s to the roster, all the while increasing their offering of long-haul routes and striving to adopt green biofuels!
It's the pretty little green and white jets of Taiwanese EVA Air that touch down at sixth place on Skytrax's list of top Asian airlines, which is great news for any travelers looking to explore the heady metropolis of Taipei, the cherry blossom orchards of Yangmingshan, or the soaring heights of the country's Central Mountains this year. American destinations now served by the carrier include Dallas, Chicago and the Big Apple, while a nonstop connection to Houston is also in the works for 2015!
Touting one of the most accomplished economy classes on the globe and two former second place positions on Skytrax's overall airline rankings, Asiana Airlines really are one to watch. Not only is the carrier edging ever closer to 100 transpacific routes, connecting South Korea with global cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, but it has also been lauded for its ethical and environmentally friendly approach to flying, with rainforest-friendly coffee beans and reduced carbon emissions bolstering the company's prestige.
With Garuda Indonesia placing orders for aircrafts left, right and center, planning all-new and ambitious international connections to the United States and Europe, and increasing the frequency of key routes every year (like those between Jakarta and Singapore or Bali and Seoul), it's clear that the airline is still firmly riding the wave of its glorious 2009 rebirth. What's more, with a Skytrax five-star rating and a top-five place among the best regional airlines, there's little doubt that it's here to stay!
Hailing in from the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo, ANA All Nippon occupy a very respectable fourth position on this list of the best airlines in Asia. What's more, the honor is bolstered even further by a second place on Skytrax's 2014 line-up of the world's finest first class cabins, not to mention previous Payload Asia Awards and various CAPA Aviation accolades. Perhaps it's that all-new "Inspiration of Japan" cabin structure, with its 180-degree business class flatbeds, private first class suites and acclaimed AVOD entertainment systems — who knows?
Based between the runways of bustling Changi Airport, Singapore Airlines garner yet another Skytrax commendation this year, touting a four-tier cabin service (recently overhauled to the tune of $570 million!), interior suites designed by the meticulous hand of Jean-Jacques Coste (gaining the carrier a separate award for their most premium seats), and celebrated business cabins, not to mention a line-up of destinations right across Asia and the rest of the world — from the sprawling cityscape of Guangzhou to the happening strips of Los Angeles.
As the current reigning king on Skytrax's line-up of the best airlines overall, a five-star rating holder and one of the fastest growing carriers in the world, it's hardly surprising that Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific takes first place on this rundown of the best Asian fliers. Currently, the flag carrier serves no fewer than five separate continents, boasts some of the longest air connections on the planet, and lays claim to the first ever successful trans-polar flight route. Keep it coming, Cathay!