(CNN) — It's a country characterized by sandy beaches, jaw-dropping glaciers and sweeping mountain ranges -- and an industry-leading airline.
Air New Zealand is Airline of the Year for 2020, according to AirlineRatings.com, the Australia-based aviation safety and product rating agency.
AirlineRatings.com says the Kiwi carrier's record-breaking performance and inflight innovations -- not to mention its safety record and staff motivation -- earned it the win.
Taking back the number one slot from last year's winner Singapore Airlines, this is Air New Zealand's sixth time winning the travel award.
The Airline Excellence Awards cover the best of the best in the aviation world, recognizing the swankiest airline lounges, finest first class cabins and most exciting in-flight entertainment.
"In our analysis Air New Zealand came out number one in most of our audit criteria, which is an outstanding performance when it is up against carriers with more resources and scale," says Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of AirlineRatings.com.
Innovation and sustainability
Qantas won the Best Lounge award.
Courtesy of Qantas
Thomas tells CNN Travel it was Air New Zealand's fleet age that helped cement the airline's eco-conscious status.
"In the past 10 years the airline has reduced its fuel burn and thus carbon emissions by almost 22%, ahead of the industry average," he says
"The airline has been a pioneer in a number of important industry initiatives such as biofuels and more efficient flight paths as well as a host of on ground improvements such as electric vehicles."
AirlineRatings.com's awards are judged by seven experienced editors using international industry and government safety audits, alongside 12 key criteria including fleet age, passenger reviews, investment ratings, staff relations, product offerings and profitability.
In 2019, Qantas ran experimental research flights testing the London-Sydney stretch. CNN's Richard Quest reports from the flight deck of one such ultra long-haul flight.
The airline didn't win the Excellence in Long Haul travel award, though.
Singapore Airlines was awarded for its First Class offering.
Courtesy Singapore Airlines
Instead, Delta Air Lines took the top spot for the Americas, Lufthansa grabbed the gong in Europe, Emirates won in the Middle-East/Africa and Cathay Pacific Airways cinched the title in Asia-Pacific.
Last year's Airline of the Year winner Singapore Airlines won Best First Class this year.
Qatar Airways picked up the Best Catering and Best Business Class awards.
Qatar Airways courtesy of AirlineRatings.com
"The editors said that the competition for top spot was tight with Singapore Airlines, Qantas and All Nippon Airways just being pipped at the post," says Thomas.
As for the budget options, JetBlue won Best Low-Cost Airline in the Americas, Wizz won in Europe, Air Arabia in the Middle East and Africa and Air Asia/Air Asia X won for Asia-Pacific.
AirlineRatings.com's top 10 airlines for 2020
1. Air New Zealand
2. Singapore Airlines
3. All Nippon Airways
5. Cathay Pacific
7. Virgin Atlantic
8. EVA Air
9. Qatar Airways
10. Virgin Australia