Aviation Week has just published its annual Top Performing Airlines (TPA) rankings, which feature a couple of familiar names in the top spots. Singapore Airlines was the best of the mainline/legacy carriers, regaining the title after Alaska Airlines won it last year. Cebu Air debuted in – and won – the low-cost/niche category, while Regional Express Holdings was the top regional carrier for the third year running.
Beyond the category winners, some interesting trends emerged from the TPA study. One of these was the prominence of airlines that have a lot of exposure to the rapidly expanding China market, which is discussed in this story on the mainline category (the rankings can be found at the end of the story). Other trends were the relative weakness of the European carriers (except Lufthansa), and the general improvement of scores throughout the category.
What appears on AviationWeek.com is only a fraction of the TPA material. There is more in the latest issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology, but the full range of data, and analysis is available only to subscribers of the Aviation Week Intelligence Network. This includes individual pages on each carrier, and additional charts and tables – about 80 pages all told. AWIN subscribers can access it here.
There are a few noteworthy things to point out about the TPA study and rankings. Other publications also do annual airline awards, but ours is a bit different in that it is based on a series of complex formulas that give a good assessment of a carrier’s financial and operational performance. There are advantages and disadvantages to determining winners objectively rather than subjectively, but I think the formula approach is a good one.
People often ask why the Gulf carriers like Emirates and Etihad are not in the rankings. It is because we only include carriers that are publicly traded, which also rules out the likes of Virgin Atlantic. And this is why Cebu was included for the first time this year: it completed an IPO in October. It is also worth noting that we use data for the 12 months through Dec. 31, 2010 in most cases. We do that so we can compare a similar 12-month periods for all carriers.
The process starts with TPA project manager Michael Lowry assembling a broad range of data for each airline and running it through a set of formulas to get scores in five categories. The total score and the rankings are derived from these.
We then assemble a panel of veteran aviation experts to discuss what the rankings reveal about industry trends, looking at how different regions and business models fared. This forms the basis of the analysis stories that accompany the rankings. The panel also gives us advice on what changes to the model are needed.
We’re going to make some significant changes to the TPA process next year which should yield an interesting new way of looking at which airlines are the top performers. So stay tuned!