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Air New Zealand is Number 1

Reporting for Melinda Browning reports that Air New Zealand has pulled off a 'remarkable' feat to be named the world’s best airline for 2020, the sixth time it has held the title. The Kiwi airline beat last year’s world No.1, Singapore Airlines, to be named best airline in the world by editor-in-chief Geoffrey Thomas says Air New Zealand remains on top in virtually every category, an extraordinary achievement. “Air New Zealand is a clear industry leader which is remarkable when it is up against much larger global carriers. The airline is committed to excellence in all areas of its business with its employees across the globe consistently delivering exceptional customer service.”

Air New Zealand's Premium Economy seating

Air New Zealand acting chief executive Jeff McDowall says the airline is honoured to recieve’s top award. “While we are extremely proud to receive this award, 2020 marks Air New Zealand’s 80th year and we are focused on delivering some great new initiatives, as well as launching our non-stop Auckland-New York service in late October.” Air New Zealand also claimed the category award for best premium economy. Qantas came in at No.4 overall, and world’s best titles for its lounges and domestic service. Virgin Australia ranked No.10 overall, with accolades for best economy class and best cabin crew.

Thomas said: “Virgin Australia’s cabin crew treat every passenger whether in row 1 or at the back of the aircraft as a special guest and it shows.”

The awards are judged by a panel of seven judges, who have more than 200 years’ of aviation experience between them, across 12 key criteria including customer reviews, product offerings, safety, fleet age, profitability and environmental leadership.

Looking after everybody (Virgin Australia)


1. Air New Zealand

2. Singapore Airlines

3. All Nippon Airways

4. Qantas

5. Cathay Pacific

6. Emirates

7. Virgin Atlantic

8. EVA Air

9. Qatar Airways

10. Virgin Australia


Best first class – Singapore Airlines

Best business class – Qatar Airways

Best premium economy – Air New Zealand

Best economy class – Virgin Australia

Best cabin crew — Virgin Australia

Most improved airline – Cebu Pacific

Best lounges – Qantas

Best domestic airline – Qantas

Delta Air Lines took the top spot for the Americas, Lufthansa were placed first in Europe, Emirates won in the Middle-East/Africa and Cathay Pacific Airways clinched the title in Asia-Pacific.

One of Qantas' award-winning lounges (Qantas)

Sleeping soundly in First Class (Singapore Airlines)

This economy seat is better than business

Earlier this year John Burfield sampled Air New Zealand's Skycouch.

Let’s be honest – the words 'comfortable' and 'economy class' rarely make it into the same sentence. But on this recent long-haul flight in economy, a few things happened that I never thought possible. For starters, I discovered there is indeed a way to lie down flat in economy, without having to do so stretched out on the floor (and there have been many a time I’ve been tempted to do that over the years, but it’s against all airline rules). Over the 12-and-a-bit-hour Air New Zealand trip from Auckland to Los Angeles, I spent most of the time in a deep slumber on a comfy mattress, under a warm duvet with my head resting on three thick pillows.

I discovered a trip in economy can prove just as comfortable as in business, and at almost half the cost. This trip was on the Skycouch, which is three economy seats that, once the arm rests are pushed up and three extended leg rests folded up, become one flat space. What it misses out on in length at only 1.5m from wall to aisle armrest, it more than makes up for in width at 74cm – a significant 18cm wider than the 56cm business bed.

After dinner had been served, Duncan the attendant arrived to set up the Skycouch and within minutes, my seats had become a bed, complete with a mattress. Among the instructions was that, for the sake of safety, you must travel with your head at the wall end and wear a “cuddle belt” that goes across the body from the couch to under the seat in front.

John Burfield

The Skycouch is only available on the window-side sections and, around me, I noticed who else had opted for it. One mum and her young daughter were stretched out together and, in front of them, a dad and his two kids had done the same thing. While it is promoted as also being suitable for a couple to sleep together in a spooning position, I’m not convinced two adults would really be that comfy. It’s wide but doesn’t seem that wide. But as a solo traveller, it proved practically perfect. Even when the people in front reclined their seats, it had almost no impact on my space. Getting completely comfortable does, however, take a few modifications. It’s a good idea to put extra pillows over the seatbelt ports so the buckles don’t stick into your back. At 180cm tall, the 1.5m Skycouch length meant I had to sleep with my legs bent, which was no big deal. I usually do the same thing in business anyway. And if you want to watch a movie, not even a pile of propped-up pillows will get you into a position where you can see the back-of-the-seat screen comfortably. The ultimate First World Problem on this flight!

True, there are no amenity kits, flow of champagne, dinner with tablecloths, or the dedicated service at the pointy end of the plane. But for sheer space, Skycouch is a superb option and a game changer when travelling in economy. As we came in to land in LA, and the Skycouch was packed away, I understood why a few other airlines are now rumoured to be considering this model. For sheer comfort and abundance of space, Air New Zealand’s Skycouch is definitely worth the extra dollars. It’s as good as some business-class beds I have flown in. Maybe even better.

John Burfield

The writer was a guest of Air New Zealand.

Images: Air New Zealand unless stated.

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