Let's forget the big long haulers for a moment and those huge transatlantic carriers with their colossal Boeing Dreamliners and Airbus A380s, and think local instead — to those small-scale, regional airlines that are dedicated to criss-crossing the skies a little closer to home. Since the rise of commercial aviation, they have been a true staple of the industry, offering oodles of connecting flights, speedy holiday getaways and plenty of scope for commuting business types. And just like the big boys, these humble fleets also have their place in the prestigious Skytrax World Airline Awards, giving would-be passengers on the planet's more petite jets a chance to appreciate the highest fliers.
Setting the ball rolling here at fifth place on Skytrax's line-up of the top regional carriers currently gracing the airs is Porter Airlines out of Canada, who have been transporting Torontonians between major cities in North America since 2006. Destinations in the small flier's repertoire include the historic Latin quarters of Quebec City, the bluesy streets of Chicago across the Great Lakes, bustling Washington D.C., and the pretty coastal stretches of Halifax, Nova Scotia, to name just a few.
The winner of Skytrax's Southeast Asian small airline category in 2009 and 2010, and the recipient of a "Regional Airline of the Year" award from CAPA, SilkAir's place among the top local fliers on the globe seems well-deserved. What's more, profits have been up in recent years, and the carrier continues to innovate, now piloting streaming technologies on board one of its Airbus A320s, allowing passengers on-demand entertainment direct to their personal smart devices.
Scooting European travelers between the shimmering cubist villages and volcanic cliffs of Santorini, the secluded beachfronts of Kefalonia, the Venetian majesty of Chania on Crete, and the iconic ancient rises of the Greek capital at Athens, not to mention a whole host of continental destinations further afield — from Oslo in the north to Madrid and Moscow — Aegean Airlines stand tall for Europe on this list, touting a humble fleet of just 35 planes made up mainly of Airbus A320-200s.
Unsurprisingly, it's a subsidiary of the high-flying Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific (the four-time Skytrax Airline of the Year award winner, no less!) that slides neatly into second place on this list of the top regional carriers going. And why not, with millions of passengers now choosing their intriguing red and white jets with the dragon on the tail each year, and those all-new cabin classes offering StudioKA entertainment systems and 32 inches of pitch in economy?
A staple for backpackers and business types alike, Bangkok Airways have risen to become one of the best regional fliers in the skies of Southeast Asia in the last ten years or so. The carrier currently runs a fleet of just 27 crafts and services destinations from Thailand and the Maldives to China and Mandalay, presenting itself as a boutique alternative with its all-new Blue Ribbon Club business equivalent, a premier class for higher-paying customers, and a truly personalized experience from the lounges of Suvarnabhumi International to the arrival terminals on the other side.