And the Best Airline Award for Missionaries in 2024 Goes to…

AirlineRatings.com just came out with the top airlines in the world and… they are wrong. If you are a missionary and looking to fly to closed nations in Asia, the Middle East, or Africa, your criteria is completely different.

I spend at least 300 days a year traveling and because I am always looking for the best deal, I rarely fly with the same airline. For full disclosure, I have had a Cathay Pacific Diamond Card for over a decade, a SAS Platinum card, and currently have 9 million miles to spend sitting on my Emirates account.

AirlineRatings.com selected Singapore Airlines as Best First Class, but if you are a missionary you are most likely wanting to know who has the best economy class seats. As a missionary you are likely flying cheap, hoping your flight will not be delayed, you bags won’t go missing, you won’t be charged for extra weight, and if you are traveling with your family – you won’t be scattered all over the plane.

But I would also venture to bet that you are hoping to make as few transfers as possible, and enjoy your time in the airport as you transfer.

With the criteria above, let me just kick out a few top contenders right away from the AirlineRatings.com awards list.

Air New Zealand won AirlineRatings best economy class.

Pffftt…..no!

First off, no one flies to New Zealand (except those living in New Zealand). And from my experience, the New Zealand airport is not the most welcoming for tourists wishing to visit. So, you can scratch that exotic airport layover experience, because Kiwi customs officers are hyper-sensitive to every known bug and dirt particle known to man and are not afraid to tear you, your clothing, or your luggage apart looking for violations.

Same logic applies to Qantas Airlines. First off, no one even knows what Qantas means. Sure, I could look it up – God knows I would have a lot of time to on the two day trek it would take me to fly to Australia en-route to anywhere I would want to fly. And let’s face it, any airline that takes me closer to the abomination of Vegemite is worth avoiding altogether.

Cathay Pacific also made it to the number 3 spot. This was true 10 years ago, but it is true NO LONGER. Cathay Pacific was forced to shut down during China’s draconian lockdowns and more than 95% of Cathay flights were grounded. Many staff members walked away. Now Cathay has major problems. Their aircrafts are under-serviced. The standards for their pilots have fallen. They pay their staff much less than before, meaning their candidates are not as competitive as before. It is impossible to book flights using miles. Your points expire extremely fast. Most of all, the Hong Kong airport has fallen very low in what it offers to transfer passengers.

10 years ago there were many Asian and western restaurants, now more than 95% of the restaurants are Cantonese and if you are not a fan of Canton food then you are out of luck during transfers. Also, most of the shops, restaurants, and lounges shut down around 9 or 10 pm even though many flights do not depart until after 1 am in the morning. So passengers have to wander aimlessly through the airport waiting for their flight to depart and pray that it does not get delayed.

Honestly, I love Cathay and miss what they used to be, but today Cathay Pacific doesn’t belong anywhere near any list that refers to best airlines.

In my world, the best economy class airline for missionary travelers easily goes to Emirates. Emirates takes the top award.

Emirates takes the top spot for several reasons:

  1. The number of destinations that Emirates flies to in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia is more than almost any other airline. So even if you are flying to Sudan, Iraq, or Iran, you can stay with Emirates.
  2. Emirates gives extremely generous allowances for check in and carry on luggage compared to other airlines.
  3. Earning and spending miles on Emirates is one of the easiest out there. Booking tickets with miles on Emirates is one of the most painless experiences in the airline industry.
  4. Transfers at the Dubai Airport is enjoyable. There is plenty of shopping and several practical restaurants.
  5. The economy class meals are better than most.
  6. The economy class screen is one of the biggest in the industry and the movie/video selections are second to none.
  7. Their movie selection is edited to remove nudity and foul language.
  8. The chances of losing your luggage is lower than with other airlines.

Even though Emirates is one of my top picks for economy class, there are a few things to know about Emirates however that are less than desirable.

  1. Emirates is not a part of any real top tier mileage partner program like One World or Star Alliance.
  2. Drones, wine, and secret filming devices like a camera pen are illegal and their handbag scanners are good at catching these items.
  3. Any transfer flights that involve DXB Terminal 2 is a hassel.
  4. The airport is a little older and not as many choices as Qatar, Turkey, or Singapore.

NUMBER TWO SPOT, goes to Qatar Airways.

In so many ways, Qatar is much better than Emirates, but at the end of the day, Emirates has more flights and Dubai is a more liberal Muslim nation than Qatar. The more conservative Islamic nation of Qatar can create certain problems for unexpected situations and the fact is, individuals have less in Islamic nations, especially female missionaries traveling alone. The more Islamic they are, the less freedom one has.

However, Qatar is number two for me because they offer almost everything that Emirates does, but it is better. They have better food, better seats, better airport, better food court in the airport, more modern facilities, and better service.

And if you ever get selected for a free upgrade to business class on Qatar Airways, it is far better than Emirates. Emirates business class seats are not that great. Emirates has a middle seat where a passenger can be locked between two and the seating arrangement makes it so an inside seat has to step over the isle seat passenger to exit for toilet or to grab something from overhead.

Qatar Airways is also a part of One World Alliance, which has some of the best partners around the world.

Number Three Spot goes to Singapore Airlines

Not only is Singapore a top class airline with great economy seats, entertainment selection, and service, but the airport is one of the best in the world. Great transfers, butt-load of amazing restaurants, and some of the best shopping in the world. Dubai and Qatar have many high end shops in their mall to cater to a very high class customer, but they are boring and not practical for missionaries, but Singapore has the best shopping for the everyday customer.

Number Four goes to SAS/Swiss Air

SAS and Swiss Air are equally good choices for missionaries. For many people traveling to the Middle East and Africa, Europe is a great transfer point if you are not flying with Ethiopian or South African airlines. Lufthansa used to be my top pick five years ago, but no longer. Their main transfer hub, Frankfurt, has gone downhill since Covid, their service has dropped, their food quality has dropped, and their flights cancel more times than a maxed out credit-card.

SAS and Swiss Air are not even in the top 25 list for AirlineRatings.com. Honestly, I don’t know what those guys were smoking when they rated the airlines, because compared to some of the top award winners with British Airways, TAP Portugal, FinnAir and Air France, SAS and Swiss Air are head and shoulders above the rest. Missionaries can appreciate their no fuss, Scandinavian style airlines with great service, amazing food, and the best airport hubs in Europe – Copenhagen and Zurich (sorry, Munich was tarnished by Lufthansa).

You wanna lose your luggage? Then sure, take your chances with British Airways. You wanna have a crappy airport experience? Then reroute through Ireland, Portugal, Rome, or Paris. They will never disappoint to disappoint.

And US airlines like America, Delta, or United? Don’t even get me started. Have fun losing your luggage, fighting with US immigration, dragging your luggage through customs while rushing to make your next flight, and getting service from flight attendants who are more likely to fossilize before retiring or being moved to an administration position.

When it comes to airport hubs, Zurich is one of the best, with several hotels to choose from in the terminal – along with restaurants, food courts, a massive shopping mall, and two grocery stores! Doing an extended layover in Zurich and staying in the airport doesn’t get better. Everything simply works. It intuitively works.

Zurich Airport has the car rental facility at the airport, which is not common for such a large airport. This means that you do not have to take a dreadful bus to a different terminal, dragging all of your luggage, baby strollers, and jet-legged family all over the great green creation to get to your rental car.

Both of these airlines are also a part of Star Alliance, which is one of the best partnerships available today. Singapore Airlines is also a part of Star Alliance.

Not on my list of top five, but very close in Europe is KLM. Amsterdam has one of the best airports in the world, similarly as functional and enjoyable as Copenhagen and Zurich.

Number Five goes to Korean Airlines

Korean won this position for one single reason – food. Korean Air has the best food in the business. Their in-flight bibimbap is legendary! Bibimbap is the perfect missionary dish. You have your starch, vegetables, and protein all in a single bowl. Cover it with spicy sauce and you are ready to preach the Gospel right there on the plane to see the guy in seat 41C give his heart to Christ.

The service is also good and the airport hub is enjoyable enough, especially if you are traveling with children, but it is the in-flight food that takes them over the top for missionaries.

I know that I will hear from missionaries around the world who will be arguing for their own airlines that they have experienced and be yelling for me to include airlines like Virgin, Turkey, Thai or budget airlines like Icelandic Air or Air Asia, but I wrote what I wrote. This is my top-top list for airlines that give the best chance for missionaries to have a good flight experience.

Dr. Eugene Bach is a known trouble-maker with an active imagination and sinful past. He has a PhD, but is not a real doctor, so please do not call for him during a medical emergency on an airplane when someone is having a heart attack. Eugene started working for Back to Jerusalem in the year 2000 after a backroom deal involving Chinese spies, the NRA, Swiss bankers, and a small group of Apostolic Christians that only baptize in Jesus’ name. He spends most of his time in closed countries attempting to topple governments by proclaiming the name of Jesus and not taking showers. From time-to-time he pretends to be a writer. He is not good at it, but everyone around him tries to humor him.

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