The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE - NT

The top two in the line-up this year is iden­ti­cal to 2017, seem­ingly hav­ing mas­tered the elu­sive art of con­sis­tently pleas­ing pas­sen­gers.

Swiss, which flies from sev­eral UK cities, has, per­haps, a built-in ad­van­tage. Its des­ti­na­tion air­ports – Geneva and Zurich – are among the most ef­fi­cient of any Euro­pean hubs. There may be quite a long walk from the ar­rivals gate but I have of­ten found my lug­gage on the belt when I get to the bag­gage hall – and that al­ways makes me feel good about a flight.

That said, Swiss is a past mas­ter at in-flight ser­vice. It’s the small de­tails which make a dif­fer­ence – like the com­pli­men­tary sand­wich and drink, so rare on short-haul flights now, and es­pe­cially the bas­ket of mini-bars of de­li­cious Swiss cho­co­late handed round to­wards the end of ev­ery flight.

In sec­ond place, Ice­landair has seen a sharp growth in UK pas­sen­gers in re­cent years, as this spec­tac­u­lar is­land

has be­come more and more pop­u­lar as a tourist des­ti­na­tion. It’s al­ways heart­en­ing to see a fast-grow­ing com­pany main­tain­ing stan­dards.

Hard on its heels in third place in, up from fourth last year. The low-cost oper­a­tor has its main base at Leeds-Brad­ford and is now one of the largest sched­uled air­lines in the UK. Fur­ther down the list, Bri­tish Air­ways, win­ners from 2012-16, came 10th, easy­Jet 13th and Ryanair last out of the 25 air­lines rated.


trained cabin crew.

It also has the great ad­van­tage of a highly strate­gic home base. Sin­ga­pore is a gate­way to many south-east Asian des­ti­na­tions, and an at­trac­tive stopover on the jour­ney to Aus­trala­sia.

An­other consistent per­former, Emi­rates, re­tains sec­ond place, and Air New Zealand leapfrogs Qatar Air­ways into third. Vir­gin At­lantic puts in a cred­itable per­for­mance in sev­enth place and looks com­fort­ably the best bet for transat­lantic flights.

Bri­tish Air­ways will, I’m sure, be dis­ap­pointed with the rat­ing you gave it this year. It came 31st out of 50 air­lines, on the same score as Kenya Air­ways. It will cer­tainly want to im­press you more next year when it cel­e­brates its cen­te­nary.


such as pri­vate con­certs in his­toric build­ings and rides on vin­tage trains are com­ple­mented by a choice of in­cluded ex­cur­sions in many des­ti­na­tions. APT’s win proves that plenty of peo­ple are happy to pay a pre­mium for qual­ity, though the com­pany – which op­er­ates in Europe and Asia – has a less­in­clu­sive brand at a less-weighty price.

Uni­world piles on the lux­ury in terms of ac­com­mo­da­tion and food on its el­e­gant ships. Al­though its brave at­tempt to lure younger trav­ellers into river cruis­ing has had a mixed re­sponse, the core cus­tomer base love the gra­cious ser­vice and old-school charm enough to vote it into the first run­ner-up spot.

Spe­cial­ist Asia line Pan­daw main­tains last year’s sec­ond run­ner-up place, a fine achieve­ment con­sid­er­ing the high-pro­file brands in the mar­ket. Its hand­some, tra­di­tional-style ships sail lesser-known rivers as well as the key wa­ter­ways, with new In­dian itin­er­ar­ies for 2019.


its glo­ri­ous coastal scenery but its peo­ple and cus­toms. The 11 mul­ti­func­tion ships that hug the shore are a life­line for re­mote ham­lets, de­liv­er­ing ev­ery­thing from mail to food to chil­dren vis­it­ing granny. Hur­tigruten, last year’s sec­ond run­ner-up, also runs two ex­pe­di­tion ves­sels, with two more go-any­where ships be­ing built.

Ul­tra-luxe cruis­ing is finding a grow­ing au­di­ence, and de­spite a fleet of just four ships – a fifth is sched­uled for early 2020 – Re­gent Seven Seas has gained a suf­fi­ciently ap­pre­cia­tive au­di­ence to take the first run­ner-up spot. Ev­ery­thing is thrown into in the ad­mit­tedly pre­mium price, from cham­pagne at break­fast to in­spir­ing shore ex­cur­sions.

The sec­ond run­ner-up, Vik­ing, has struck plenty of chords with its adults-only smaller ships with smart Scan­di­na­vian in­te­ri­ors, in­clu­sive pric­ing and well thought-out itin­er­ar­ies. Vik­ing’s range of des­ti­na­tions is ex­pand­ing as fast as its fleet; ship num­ber six is due early in 2019, with more to fol­low.


three ships – plus a new flag­ship about to en­ter ser­vice – have sails. Stir­ring mu­sic is the sig­nal for the crew to raise them so guests can en­joy the sen­sa­tion of wind power. The re­laxed, fun at­mos­phere on board has proved very pop­u­lar, as have the de­tailed itin­er­ar­ies in the Caribbean, Mediter­ranean and south-east Asia.

The first run­ner-up, so­phis­ti­cated Se­abourn, sets the bar high with plush ac­com­mo­da­tion and fine din­ing on in­ti­mate ships. Its win in this cat­e­gory last year was no doubt partly due to the launch of the su­per-stylish Ova­tion and a part­ner­ship with Unesco, which adds depth to many shore ex­cur­sions.

Aza­mara Club Cruises has cap­tured at­ten­tion with its coun­try-in­ten­sive voy­ages. Its ships visit a va­ri­ety of ports in a more com­pact re­gion, with sev­eral overnight stays. Most cruises fea­ture a spe­cial evening out in­cluded in the price.


EV­ERY ONE’S A WIN­NERSee the North­ern Lights on a cruise with Hur­tigruten, top; suite dreams with Sin­ga­pore Air­lines, left; the Dor­dogne, above, where villa oper­a­tor Simp­son Travel has prop­er­ties

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