Gadling’s favorite airlines for 2011

gadling favorite airlines 2011

Even with airlines falling over themselves in an effort to generate profits out of new fees and charges, flying retains some glamour and excitement. No? Not working for you? Well there are mileage programs to exploit and perks to chase. And even in the direst landscape for customers, there are always new routes to sample, smiling flight attendants to befriend, and reliable pilots to thank for safe landings.

Going into 2011, it appears that Virgin America is Gadling’s favorite airline. Virgin America sails above the competition with their standard of service, their appealing overall product, and their general freshness.

Other airlines we especially like or tolerate for one or another reason include easyJet, Qantas, VAustralia, Air France, Philippine Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Jet Airways, Continental, Alaska Airlines, and Porter.

We begin with the observations of Kent Wien, Gadling’s resident pilot-contributor and the motor behind two Gadling features, namely, Cockpit Chronicles and Plane Answers.

Kent Wien. Air New Zealand. I don’t know if I was more impressed with their new line of coach sleeper seats or the friendliness of their flight attendants. Either way, Air New Zealand has managed to capture much of the recent jump in tourism traffic to New Zealand by offering an innovative cabin design and enhanced service which includes an in-flight concierge for the entire airplane. They’ve changed the look and feel of their galleys by hiding them away during boarding, since the first thing passengers see when stepping on to an airplane is the in-flight kitchen. And most of these changes were accomplished even after they were named by Air Transport World as the airline of the year for 2010.

Mike Barish. I continue to love Virgin America. They’re willing to show personality. They have a sense of humor and their use of social media is phenomenal. They have really embraced customer service and care about humanizing their brand.

Annie Scott. Air France has the best coach class of any airline I’ve flown this year, but Philippine Airlines gets ten points for calling their economy class “Fiesta Class.”

McLean Robbins. Virgin America. Am I one of many?

Meg Nesterov. Turkish Airlines has become my default carrier of choice, which is fine given their excellent service. How many other airlines will let you cancel and rebook a flight last minute and only charges a small change fee? Their in-flight meals even in coach are reliably good and always free.

Melanie Nayer. Props to Cathay Pacific. Great in-flight crew, and any airline that makes me a grilled cheese sandwich in flight is tops in my book!

Alex Robertson Textor. Porter, hands down. I like the airline so much I found a way to write a piece for their in-flight magazine. I want two dozen regional Porters around the globe, each with limited route maps, quiet, fuel-efficient planes, friendly fight attendants, and a single class of service.Catherine Bodry. Alaska Air.

Grant Martin. Virgin America & VAustralia. All of that positive press is happening for a reason. These two airlines have the best service out there, and their hard products are equally gorgeous. Get to Australia next year while competition is still high and ticket prices are rock bottom.

Karen Walrond. I fly mostly on Continental because I live in its hub city and that’s where my airmiles are. Here in Houston, we’re nervous about the merger between Continental and United. We hope nothing will be ruined in the process!

David Farley. Jet Airways.

Sean McLachlan. easyJet. Everyone complains about them, myself included, but damn they’re cheap and convenient. And hey, at least they aren’t Ryanair!

Laurel Miller. Qantas for their consistently excellent service, staff, and on-time departures.

[Image: Flickr | LWY]

Air New Zealand launches ads with foul-mouthed puppet

Air New Zealand has never been shy in their use of video. This is the airline that used body paint to promote their services. They hosted a Matchmaking Flight. They used the body paint again in their in-flight safety videos. So, it should come as no surprise that they’ve launched a new ad campaign starring a foul-mouthed puppet. Rico has a thick accent, a penchant for employing some well-timed double entendres and seems to spend an awful lot of time on transcontinental flights.

Check out one of the ads above and two more here and here. As we have in the past when we covered some of Air New Zealand’s risque ads and videos, we ask you to share your thoughts in the comments. Is this another example of a cheeky airline with a sense of humor and the courage to have a personality or evidence that they have crossed a line? I vote for the former. What say you?

Skycouches bring fresh potential to airline seating

Tired of having to scramble back to the lav when it’s time for a little high-flying intimacy? Well, the airlines are (finally) offering an upgrade with you in mind. Some carriers are catering to lovers – or amorous strangers – in the sky with “Skycouches.” Think of the potential: three seats in economy class that can be turned into a “large, flat space,” according to The Australian. The article continues that this innovative approach to seating is “suitable for families or couples who want to stretch out next to each other,” but it doesn’t see how easily this new opportunity could be used abused.

The best part is that you’ll be able to book the Skycouch at something of a discount. Air New Zealand, which is introducing the program, is offering a discount to couples who want to book the third seat – half off!

Look for these seats on some Air New Zealand flights from Auckland to Los Angeles in November, though I think we all hope they don’t take too long to make it to the U.S. carriers!

[photo by S.C. Axman via Flickr]

Fly to New Zealand and back this month for only $480

Got some free time later this month? Air New Zealand just put a giant swath of seats on sale for travel between California and New Zealand. Round trip, the entire journey only costs $399 with tax, or just about $490 all in. That’s less expensive than half of the transcontinental US flights and than all of the flights to the EU this spring.

In short, it’s a fantastic deal, and combined with the strong dollar (against the NZ dollar) and Air New Zealand’s superior transpacific service, this is a once in a lifetime experience.

If you’re interested in booking tickets, check out Air New Zealand’s website for more details. Tickets need to be purchased by day’s end Friday, May 14, 2010 for travel between May 21 and May 30.

And if you’re looking for inspiration to make your journey, check out Gadling’s series In the Corner of the World where we road trip from the tip of the north island through the heart and soul of New Zealand in a two-week-long fiesta of adventure, excitement and wide angle photos.



Designing Air New Zealand’s new long haul configurations

Air New Zealand‘s marketing team is well underway promoting their new cabin configurations that we reported on earlier this year. The designs, which our very own Kent Wien covered in a series of on-the-ground dispatches, are set to vastly improve the business class and coach experiences, with redesigned business class cabins and lie-flat sections implemented in economy.

The highly dramatic version of the design process is summed up in the Youtube video below. We can’t wait to take the new configurations for a spin.

[Via Mike Lee]