What US airlines should learn from the world’s best carriers – CNN

Try as they might, airlines in the United States have been mostly absent from the Skytrax rankings for years, so 2017’s prizes were handed to a familiar list of international players.

Qatar Airways was named airline of the year, while Turkish Airlines, Etihad Airways, Qantas and Thai Airways picked up other globally focused awards. [Click through the gallery above to see the other winners]

Skytrax’s rankings are, put simply, a reflection of passenger satisfaction — they’re made after exhaustive surveys of actual fliers. More than 300 world airlines are evaluated on everything from websites and staff language skills, to the efficiency of the aircraft boarding process and the temperature and comfort of the cabins.

Not being on the list doesn’t necessarily equate to being at the bottom — airlines in America, despite recent bad headlines, are hardly the worst in the world. There are simply other carriers whose standards, by virtue of customer service culture, variety of amenities, or continued innovation, easily exceed those of US air companies.

So what can US airlines learn from this year’s Skytrax winners?

Diversity, respect and support

Etihad Airways: Recognized for the best First Class catering.

Several international carriers, including Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines, go above what’s required in training airport staff and cabin crew. The usual safety and task instructions are supplemented with classes on etiquette.

These lessons focus on responding with empathy and respect across cultures, helping airline guests feel welcome and building crew confidence.

Flight attendants learn the meaning of the Indian head shake, for example, and how to graciously guide passengers through formalities, such as the filling out of immigration forms in a language foreign to them, without embarrassment.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines was the only US airline to win Skytrax awards this year, ranking tops for “best airline staff in North America” and “best regional airline in North America.” Alaska’s heavy focus on the Pacific Northwest and its role as a lifeline to rural communities often ignored by other airlines inspires loyalty, which is often rewarded with neighborly, friendly service from airline staff.

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