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Airlines given annual excellence awards

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Every year around this time, Skytrax, the international research company that advises airlines and airports around the world on quality and performance issues, releases the results of a 'best of' major awards program they undertake.

Based on almost 19 million consumer responses from 105 nationalities worldwide on 41 key performance indicators, they announce winners first by region, and then compare the regional winners against the universal industry results.

They cover almost 250 airlines in their survey as well as most of the airport lounges passengers most frequent when they use them.

From year to year, there is a consistency in which airlines usually emerge at the top, with some significant surprises from time to time.

In today's column, I will focus on some of the highlights readers may find interesting, and relate how our own carriers do from a North American perspective when they fail to make the international cut.

The top airline of the year, which, having flown with them a number of times is no surprise to me, was Cathay Pacific. Coming in second and third respectively were the Qatar and Singapore airlines.

It is noteworthy lesser-known airlines such as Turkish Air made the Top 10 list as well.

While most of these airlines really stand out for their first-class and business-class cabins, most of us may never experience those options because of the costs associated with being spoiled at 30,000 feet.

The top honours for the best hospitality-class cabin go to Asiana Airlines and Garuda Indonesia.

It was satisfying to note our own WestJet Airlines made the No. 7 spot in the best low-cost carriers' category.

Porter Airlines, which is yet to expand its service to Winnipeg, received significant accolades as it was proclaimed the best regional airline in North America.

All three of our Canadian carriers did extremely well in this North American category, with Air Canada achieving top honours, followed by WestJet and Porter Airlines taking sixth spot.

These are achievements that we, as Canadians, can be proud considering the plethora of airlines that fly around the United States. Other airlines behind Air Canada and WestJet represent some of the largest brand identities in the world; Virgin America, Delta, United and Southwest to name just a few.

The best airline staff service award in North American went to Virgin America, followed by WestJet, Porter Airlines, Alaska Airlines and then Air Canada.

The most improved airlines in the world over the previous year's results were Hong Kong Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, and even Russia's Aeroflot, whose reputation has been spotty at times.

Unless you are flying business class or first class, the idea of being properly fed on an airline seems like an expectation from a bygone era. But in fact, some of the world's best airlines do care how their clients dine, and not just in the premium cabins.

If the thought of food is on your plate, consider these top performers for their catering services. Taste the difference the No. 1-rated Thai Airways offers. Their meals are reported to be almost exquisite.

Turkish Airlines was second followed by Asiana Airlines again. Both Cathay Pacific and Garuda Indonesia also made it into the Top 10 ratings.

Turkish Airlines also has the best business-class meals. If you are a first-class or business-class road warrior for whom quality meals are important, you may also want to consider Ethad, ANA All Nippon or Oman Air.

With various premium credit card programs offering access to airline lounges, many people who can't afford first-class or business-class flights are still willing to pay the extra costs for the comforts and service available in what are commonly referred to as business-class lounges.

Since the arrival time for airport check-in has gotten longer, those who have these access cards have been especially pleased to be able to work or wait for their flight departures in a quieter, more convenient environment.

It is in these facilities where the food service often begins, and the overall experience of the flight to follow is enhanced by the beverages and culinary options available before boarding.

The world's best business-class lounges are offered by Qatar, Turkish and Cathay Pacific Airways.

Both Qantas and British Airways are recognized in this category as well.

For the well-heeled who are able to fly first class, for an enviable experience on the ground or in the air, you may want to fly Air France or Lufthansa.

Many of the others already mentioned, as expected, also made it into the Top 10 for service in their lounges as well.

For most of us, these honours are nothing more than interesting notations. But to the airline companies, they have meaning. Region by region, every airline strives to be seen as the best in providing an exceptional overall flying experience to their clients.

While these awards are celebrated with grandeur and hoopla wherever they take place around the world, behind the scenes, executives are soul-searching for what they need to do to get the support of travellers who will recognize their efforts to improve and excel.

Forward your travel questions to Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on or read Ron's travel blog at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2014 E3

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