When it comes to the world's most powerful airline brand, another name has taken the crown.
According to Brand Finance, which recently announced its annual Global 500 list featuring Lego, Google and co., Russian carrier Aeroflot is the world's most powerful airline brand.
It carries an AAA brand rating which is also held by nine other airlines, but Brand Finance said Aeroflot had flown to loftier heights thanks to its sponsorship of Manchester United which is helping it tap into a vast audience across East Asia. The firm also credited Aeroflot's young fleet and hefty investment in marketing.
Read more: Aeroflot dives into the red
Last month Manchester United topped Real Madrid in Deloitte's Football Money League as the world's richest club. Aeroflot signed on as the football club's official airline carrier for five years back in 2013.
Some 30 factors are taken into account when judging an airline's brand strength spanning fleet size, its average age, safety measures and number of employees, as well as investments made by the company.
Brand Finance said the news "may come as a surprise to those in Europe and North America more familiar with Western or Gulf flag carriers", but Aeroflot took the crown, helped in part by its dominance of its domestic market.
Vitaly Saveliev, Aeroflot's chief executive, said: "Aeroflot is honoured to be named the world’s strongest airline brand. This recognition reflects not just our 93-year legacy as the number one air carrier in the world’s biggest country, but also our best-in-class service offering on domestic and international routes, the youngest fleet of any major carrier globally, and of course our marketing efforts."
Brand Finance also compiles a top 50 of the world's most valuable airline brands, where Aeroflot fares less successfully. The top three spots were all taken by American airlines – American Airlines leading the way with a brand value of $9.8bn (£7.9bn), Delta and United.
For the last five years, Emirates had held the top spot, but 2017 saw quite a switch around and it dropped to fourth, with Brand Finance noting the Gulf carrier's half-year profits fell 75 per cent last year.
Its brand value dropped 21 per cent in the company's rankings, while Qatar Airways dropped 38 per cent, though not enough to affect their brand ratings; Emirates stayed AAA and Qatar Airways' AA+.
The most valuable airline brands
- American Airlines
- China Southern Airlines
- China Eastern Airlines
- Air China
- British Airways
EasyJet was 19th in the most valuable rankings, while Ryanair was 21st. Aeroflot was 26th.