Since 1999, the UK-based aviation consultancy Skytrax has held a lavish annual award ceremony for the airline industry. The awards are decided according to the experiences of passengers themselves, with over 18 million people completing the consultancy's survey in advance of the 2014 awards.
The event gives a uniquely detailed overview of the airline industry's success stories in each particular year, distributing gongs on a huge range of subjects from cabin cleanliness to in-flight entertainment to the efficiency of check-in procedures. It also provides a breakdown of the best performing airlines in each specific region. Here we've summarized the top five airlines in China according to the opinions of the passengers who completed the consultancy's survey, a region where the aviation industry has grown at a breakneck speed and which now has a handful of the biggest carriers in the world.
Only established since the late 1980s, Air China has grown into a huge airline, its fleet of 324 craft carrying 83 million passengers in 2013 - making it the third largest carrier in Asia. It is headquartered in Beijing and operates flights across the northern hemisphere as well to southeast Asia, Australia and Brazil. While ranked in the top five Chinese airlines, the airline's big wigs may in fact be mildly disappointed with its position, having previously taken prestigious awards such as Spain's 'Plaque for Tourist Merit,' received in 2010.
Originally focused on the domestic market, Shenzhen Airlines has spread its wings to encompass international destinations in recent years, flying nine international routes to various east and southeast Asian cities including Osaka, Seoul and Jakarta. But despite this growth the carrier remains firmly based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and flies primarily to Chinese destinations. It also appeared in the 2014 World Airline Awards rundown of the top ten regional airlines.
A youthful airline, Tianjin has firmly established itself in the Chinese domestic market since its launch in 2004, operating flights across the country from its base in northern China. The fledgling airline was flung into the headlines back in 2012 when one of its aircraft was the subject of an attempted hijacking, supposedly by six Uyghur men who were overpowered by the plane's passengers and crew. But nowadays it is increasingly well-known for its excellent intra-China service, which also placed it alongside Shenzhen Airlines in the top ten regional airlines of 2014.
China Southern Airlines is a truly gargantuan carrier. It is the biggest in Asia by both fleet size and the number of passengers carried, and the fourth or sixth largest in the world depending on which measure you use. Its huge fleet of 489 aircraft flies to 193 destinations around the world, though with a heavy focus on the Asia-Pacific region and a secondary focus on North America. And as well as size it has clearly mastered the art of customer service, proving immensely popular with the respondents to the World Airline Awards' survey.
Hainan is clearly among the world's elite of airlines, one of only eight Asian carriers to receive a five-star rating from UK-based consultancy Skytrax. It runs flights to 500 destinations from its base in Haikou, and has been particularly innovative as it expands its range of international destinations, in 2013 becoming the first carrier to operate direct flights between Boston and China. As well as being ranked as the best airline in China it also figured among the top world's top ten airline's for cabin staff and business class, and was placed as the 19th best airline overall.