Emirates, Virgin America win Passenger Choice Awards

Window or aisle? Coffee or Coke? Choices for airline passengers are shrinking faster than the on-board snack. But there are some airlines that are still mindful of the passenger experience and they were announced last night at the 2011 Passenger Choice Awards.

Winning the top awards for Best Overall Passenger Experience were Emirates and Virgin America. The top awards were split between larger airlines, with over 50 IFE-equipped (In Flight Entertainment-Equipped) planes in fleet (Emirates), and smaller airlines, with under 50 IFE-quipped planes in fleet (Virgin America). Not surprisingly, Emirates and Virgin America each won for their respective regions, Middle East and Americas, and Virgin America also pulled in awards for Best Inflight Video and Best Ground Experience. Another Virgin brand, V Australia – the international airline of Virgin Australia – won Passenger Choice awards for Best in Region: Asia and Australasia, Best IFE User Interface, and Best Food and Beverage. The only U.S.-based airline to win a Passenger Choice award was JetBlue, which won for Best Cabin Ambiance.

Here are all of the winners:

  • Best Overall Passenger Experience (Over 50 IFE EQUIPPED IN FLEET) – Emirates
  • Best Overall Passenger Experience (Up to 50 IFE EQUIPPED IN FLEET) – Virgin America
  • Best in Region: Africa – South African Airways
  • Best in Region: Americas – Virgin America
  • Best in Region: Asia and Australasia – V Australia
  • Best in Region: Europe – Virgin Atlantic
  • Best in Region: Middle East – Emirates
  • Best Inflight Publication – Avianca
  • Best IFE User Interface – V Australia
  • Best Inflight Connectivity & Communications – Oman Air
  • Best Inflight Video – Virgin America
  • Best Cabin Ambiance – JetBlue
  • Best Food & Beverage in conjunction with IFSA – V Australia
  • Best Ground Experience – Virgin America

Another winner at the Passenger Choice Awards was Air New Zealand, which won the Avion Award for Best Single Achievement in Passenger Experience for the Skycouch Family Experience (pictured above and in this gallery), which is about as comfortable as you can expect to get in economy class on a commercial flight in the foreseeable future.

Photo courtesy Air New Zealand

Daily Pampering: Emirates and Montblanc create limited edition writing instrument

Need a new pen? Emirates has partnered with Montblanc to offer customers the opportunity to win an exclusive Montblanc Skeleton A380 Limited Edition writing instrument, inspired by the Airbus A380.

The Montblanc Skeleton A380 Limited Edition is a collector’s dream. Its dual-leveled windows and dark blue precious resin dominates the writing instrument’s 18k white gold barrel and is designed to resemble the A380. There are 28 flawless diamonds and the crown bears the Montblanc emblem and there’s an engraved 18-carat gold nib with platinum plating on the writing instrument.

Want one? Of course you do!

Board an Emirates flight and purchase the Montblanc StarWalker A380 fineliner from Emirates’ Duty Free. When you buy the luxury writing instrument, you’ll also be entered to win a luxury trip to Hamburg, Germany, where you’ll receive the Montblanc Skeleton A380 Limited Edition. Book a flight now! The promotion runs only until June 30, 2011.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Daily Pampering: Dubai Shopping Festival hotel packages

You read the title right, fashionistas: There’s an entire festival devoted to shopping that takes place in Dubai, and Emirates Airlines has partnered with hotels and luxury retailers to offer travelers a few good discounts and a place to drop their bags after a long day of shopping.

The 15th annual Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) begins on Jan. 20 and runs until Feb. 20 in the glamorous city of Dubai. Emirates airline has teamed up with beach and city hotels to offer a free night’s stay during the Festival to visitors who book a four-night stay. The pampering continues with tax-free shopping, as well as discounts of up to 50 percent on a wide variety of items during the shopping festival.

Packages to the festival can be purchased through local travel agents or an Emirates sales office, and include a choice of hotels, airport transfers and buffet breakfast. In addition, Emirates is currently offering a Companion Fare offer: any passenger purchasing a flight to Dubai between Jan. 1-31 will get a free second ticket, excluding taxes. This Companion Fare offer is valid in all three classes – first, business and economy – with travel from Jan. 16-31.

We can’t put a price on this pampering because of the various hotel options, but we can tell you the shopping package includes accommodation for four-nights for the price of three, airport assistance on arrival at Dubai International Airport, Arabian Adventures welcome pack, airport transfers to and from the hotel by private car, breakfast daily and all taxes and service charges.
Participating beach and city hotels for the Dubai Shopping Festival include:

  • The Westin Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
  • The Jumeirah Beach Hotel
  • Mina A Salam and Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
  • The Grand Hyatt
  • Dubai Marriott
  • Al Bustan Rotana Hotel
  • Hyatt Regency
  • Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates
  • Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel
  • The Address Dubai Marina
  • The Fairmont Dubai
  • Shangri-La Hotel
  • Raffles
  • Taj Palace Hotel
  • The Palace – Old Town
  • Premier Inn Dubai International Airport
  • Four Points by Sheraton
  • Al Manzil Hotel
  • Qamardeen Hotel
  • Marco Polo Hotel and Highland City Hotel
  • (Apartment hotels include Dubai Marriott – The Harbour Hotel and Suites and Pearl Residence.)

Travel tip: Make sure to bring an extra suitcase (or two).

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Emirates Airbus A380 taken out of service by a catering truck

Of all the things that can disable a $300 million plane – a broken catering truck has to be one of the more embarrassing.

Sadly, this is the fate of Emirates A6-EDE, the seventeenth Airbus A380, delivered to the airline in April of 2009.

During a routine catering delivery at Toronto airport, the scissor lift on the truck broke, smashing the truck body onto the wing of the jet.

The plane has been taken out of service while repairs are made to the damaged wing. No passengers were on the aircraft at the time and the exact extent of the damage has not yet been determined, but repairs are estimated to take several weeks. For more photos of the incident, head on over to Cargolaw.com.

Thankfully for Emirates, they have another 89 Airbus A380’s in operation or on order.

Emirates Airlines bringing Internet and mobile phone calls to entire A380 fleet by 2012

Emirates, the world’s largest customer of the Airbus A380 just announced that its entire fleet of super jumbos will be outfitted with in-flight Internet and mobile phone technology by 2012. The service is provided by Swiss firm OnAir, and will offer voice calls, data and text messaging on its entire route network using Inmarsat SwiftBroadband satellites.

According to Emirates, the technology has been fully certified by the aircraft manufacturer. The CEO of OnAir said: “There is no question about it being safe.” And to be honest, I trust them 100% – because OnAir is a joint venture of aviation IT firm SITA and Airbus, the company that builds the A380, so they do know a thing or two about their own planes.

The timing is great, as our very own Heather Poole explained in a Galley Gossip article why she demands mobile phones be turned off – it is the law, and she enforces it. Of course, once the airlines start finding ways to make money off in-flight calls, the dangers of mobile phone usage will quickly be forgotten. Obviously, the new technology still won’t allow for calls during the takeoff and landing stage of a flight, just to be on the safe side (and prevent phones from becoming projectiles).

The first Emirates A380 with OnAir service will be ready by June 2012, so one can only hope that passengers learn some basic in-flight phone call etiquette by then.

[Photo credit: RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images]