It's easy enough to grumble about the service we get when we're flying, but the latest World Airline Awards show that - as the immortal Fred Dagg put it some 25 years ago - "we don't know how lucky we are, mate".
The verdict of the 16.2 million travellers who voted in the latest Skytrax survey of airlines is that New Zealand is served by the best airlines in the world.
For instance, the winner of the title of Airline of the Year for 2009 is Cathay Pacific, which has been flying into Auckland since 1983, and also won the top award in 2003 and 2005. It's pretty hard to disagree with that high rating because, in my experience, Cathay has never failed to deliver.
Of the top 10 airlines in the competition, eight fly here, namely: Singapore Airlines (2nd), Asiana Airlines (3rd), Emirates (5), Qantas (6), our own national carrier Air New Zealand (8), Malaysia Airlines (9) and Thai Airways (10). I've never flown Asiana but I have tried the others and they're all airlines I'd be happy to use again.
Perhaps more importantly, for the mass of us who travel steerage, the best economy classes in the world are provided by Asiana, Air NZ, Singapore and Malaysia (plus Qatar Airways, which doesn't fly here).
I'm sure opinions on this will differ but, in my experience, economy class travel has improved in the past couple of years after going through a period where it was purely a matter of cramming in as many people as possible.
And I do think Air NZ has done particularly well in improving the economy experience.
The awards also indicate that if you can stretch your wallet to flying premium economy, then Air NZ is the best bet in this part of the world, having taken third place globally.
Or, if you can go even further and manage business class, then Singapore and Air NZ rate as the best around here.
The Skytrax survey also named Jetstar as the fourth best economy airline in the world, Malaysia as having the best cabin staff, Emirates provided the best inflight entertainment, Qantas was judged the best airline in Australasia and Air Tahiti Nui as the best airline in the Pacific, while Star Alliance was named the best airline alliance.
- Jim Eagles
Pictured above: David Figgins, country manager for Cathay Pacific, has reason to smile after Cathay took out 2009 Airline of the Year. Photo / Supplied