Best Airline for Safety Demonstration Videos [Currently in Use]: Virgin America
A nun, a matador, and a bull walk onto on airplane—no, this is not the setup for a joke; it's a list of the characters starring in Virgin America's lighthearted, animated safety-demonstration video. There's a lot to be said for a video that's engaging enough to actually get people to pay attention.
The Cuddliest Airline: Air New Zealand.
In late 2010, the Auckland-based airline unveiled the Economy Skycouch, a padded, fold-out seat extension that allows a pair (or trio) of passengers to stretch out side by side for those longest of long-haul flights. The feature, unsurprisingly, was an instant hit.
Best Major U.S. Airline for Baggage Handling: Delta
Delta, had the best baggage-handling record among its peers (that is, the half-dozen largest US airlines) for 2011. Delta had 2.66 reports of mishandled baggage per 1,000 passengers flown last year. The airline raised the bar by adding a baggage-tracking tool to its free app for iPhone. iPhone users can scan the barcode by snapping a photo of the tag—and watch a bag's journey from departure to arrival, all the way down to its exact claim.
Best (Splurge) Airline for a Mid-Flight Scrub: Emirates
The Dubai-based carrier was the first in the world to use that additional room on its A380s to install full-height shower stalls for its first-class passengers to freshen up mid-flight. When the stall's door is closed, the water turns on automatically—and so does a five-minute timer, complete with a yellow warning light to signal when it's time to rinse off any suds.
Homegrown Kulula Airlines, makes the list with as they aspire to become the world’s funniest airline. The bright-green planes tattooed exterior caught the attention of O’Neill with "This Way Up" or instructional diagrams pointing out the location of the landing gear, the loo, and the co-captain (labeled, "the other pilot on the PA system"). Laughter and air travel walking hand in hand.
Eco-Friendliest Airline: Nature Air
You're going to love the windows on Nature Air's planes—and not just because the super-sized panels are roughly four times as large as the ones on the last jet you flew. No, the best part is what you see out of them: the astonishing views of the Costa Rican rainforest, which serve as a constant, vivid-green reminder of just what this regional airline is trying to protect.
Most Punctual Airline: All Nippon Airways
Forget the stereotype about German punctuality—Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) has set the standard for getting planes to their destinations on schedule. According to a report from FlightStats, the airline landed nine out of 10 flights on time in 2011—the best performance of any international carrier last year—just edging out Japan Airlines International (JAL), the winner for the two previous years.
Most Experienced Airline: Qantas
In the movie "Rain Man," Tom Cruise says, "All airlines have crashed at one time or another. That doesn't mean that they are not safe." Dustin Hoffman responds: "Qantas. Qantas never crashed." And that the claim still holds up—almost. The Australian national airline still holds an admirable safety record, having avoided any fatal crashes for more than 60 years.
Most Irresistible Budget-Conscious Airline: Ryanair
No one pinches every possible penny as assiduously as Ryanair, the ultra-low-cost Irish carrier. The skinflint airline charges a fee to check in either online or at the airport and a fee to sit in an exit row seat. Yet despite it all, Ryanair remains one of Europe's most-flown carriers. Sure, people may love to hate it, but few budget-conscious travelers seem able to resist its siren song of low fares.
Tech-Savviest Airline: Scandinavian Airlines
Imagine checking in for your flight without needing a boarding pass or a barcode, in either print or electronic form. SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) allows just that. Its system at Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm airports, debuting last autumn, uses near-field communication (NFC) chips (placed inside stickers affixed to passengers' smartphones) to recognize passengers and their itineraries.
Airlines with the Best In-Flight Economy-Class Meals: Thai Airways and Virgin America
with Bangkok-based Thai Airways, whose food item sales on the ground in its Puff & Pie takeout shops in Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai.
The "Diet Detective," set out last year to determine which major North American airlines serve food that's actually worth its weight in calories. His findings showed that Virgin America offers (for purchase) the most nutritionally balanced meals and snacks.
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