Slideshow: Top 10 'most excellent' airlines for 2018

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By Francesca Street, CNN

    (CNN) -- Air New Zealand gets regular kudos for innovating everything from in-flight services to safety videos, its funky films featuring Hobbits and other famous Kiwis.

And now, for the fifth consecutive year, the carrier has come out on top in the annual Airline Excellence Awards, created by Australia-based aviation safety and product rating agency AirlineRatings.

Celebrating the best in the aviation industry -- from budget operators to culinary champions -- the awards named Air New Zealand as Airline of the Year for 2018.

"Air New Zealand came out number one -- or equal first -- in all of our audit criteria, which is an exceptional performance," the AirlineRatings judging panel said.

In-flight product

The awards take into account four major international industry and government safety audits as well as fleet age, passenger reviews, profitability, investment ratings and key product offerings.

"We also look to see if the airline is an innovator trying new things to improve the passenger experience," says Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of AirlineRatings.com.

In the premium stakes, Singapore Airlines took top spot for First Class -- the airline's name being "synonymous with excellence of in-flight product," according to AirlineRatings.

Best Business Class went to Virgin Australia for the second consecutive year -- Virgin's "The Business" suite is a luxurious offering -- unrivaled by other executive options.

AirlineRatings also reviewed the economy options -- Air New Zealand won Best Premium Economy, whilst Best Economy went to Korean Air in recognition of its spacious seats.

"Our editorial team places significant importance on premium economy on a long-haul airline," says Thomas. "It is without doubt the best value proposition for the passenger and airline.

Australian airline Qantas also had a good run, winning Best Catering, Best Lounges and Best Domestic Class.

MORE: Check out Singapore Airlines' new luxury suites

Seven-star safety

Alongside the Airline Excellence Award winners, AirlineRatings announced its Top 10 airlines for 2018.

The carriers named in the round-up have a seven-star safety rating and have demonstrated their innovation, according to AirlineRatings.

''Whether number one or number 10 these airlines are the best of the best -- the elite in aviation," the judging team commented. "They are the trendsetters and the benchmark by which all others are judged."

AirlineRatings says its judging team includes experts who've been assessing the world of aviation for 20 years.

While the top airline list favors antipodean carriers, Thomas insists the process is "objective and not open to abuse," with criteria assessed carefully and combined into a spreadsheet to arrive at the award-winners.

AirlineRatings.com's top 10 airlines for 2018

1. Air New Zealand

2. Qantas Airways

3. Singapore Airlines

4. Virgin Australia

5. Virgin Atlantic

6. Etihad Airways

7. All Nippon Airways

8. Korean Air

9. Cathay Pacific Airways

10. Japan Airlines

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