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

Win a surf vacation to Byron Bay, Australia

Have you ever wanted to visit Australia? How about learn to surf? If you said yes to either one, or both, of those questions, then we’ve got just the contest for you. Tourism New South Wales is sponsoring a contest in which one lucky winner, and their guest, will be whisked off to Australia for five days of fun and sun on the lovely beaches of Byron Bay. Once there, they’ll learn how to surf and go kayaking with dolphins, while enjoying the famous Aussie hospitality.

To enter the contest, simply click here and fill out the form, which includes a short survey with a couple of travel related questions. From there, you’ll sit back and wait for the contest to end on November 30th. If you’re picked as the winner, you’ll get round trip airfare from Los Angeles to Brisbane courtesy of V Australia, five nights stay at the luxurious Byron at Byron Resort, surfing lessons from Mojo Surf, and much more.

But if you’re not lucky enough to win the contest, you may just want to take a trip to Byron Bay anyway. After all, it is one of the best beach destinations around. To plan and book your own Australian adventure, check out Springboard Vacations where you’ll find a host of options for visiting Oz. For example, their Ultimate Spa Package includes 10 days of pampering at some of the best resorts down under, while their Learn to Surf Package gives you everything you need for a six day aquatic adventure, including two free surf lessons and a bike tour of Sydney.

Between the sweepstakes and these great package deals, you don’t have any excuse to not visit Byron Bay soon.

Daily Pampering: V Australia Business Class service to Sydney

Seats 5H and 5K are the best two seats in V Australia‘s fleet. Nestled in the back right corner of business class, these two lie flat seats are separated from the rest of the cabin by a series of curtains, creating a minature, private room in which one can cross the Pacific Ocean. Combined with V Australia’s top quality service and inflight product, its a 14 hour journey that will breeze by in a flash.

From Los Angeles, you’ll start the journey near midnight local time, resting up in the V Australia lounge above Terminal 3 before making the quick transition to the 777-300 bound for Sydney. After a few Hendricks and Tonics in the in flight bar, a wide variety of dinner options will be served, capped off with a glass of port and one of the hundreds of shows available on the inflight entertainment system.

Once you’re ready for bed you can change into your free pajamas and sandals in the lav while flight attendants turn down your bed, leaving a sheet, duvet and chocolate. Then, after you fill out your breakfast card it’s an easy 9 hour sleep until you gently awake 3 hours outside of Australia to find a flight attendant handing you a strawberry smoothie.

Before you know it you’re on the ground in Sydney, salt and pepper shakers, sandals and pajamas stuffed in your carry on as you prepare to disembark into the southern hemisphere. After a flight like that, what else is there to look forward to?

Get your daily dose of Pampering right here or at 4PM every weekday at Gadling.

Virgin America and V Australia “Get Stripped”

The Sunset Strip Music Festival heated up last Friday, September 11, when Virgin America and V Australia teamed up to hold the festival’s official party “Get Stripped” and raise money for the Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association’s Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firemen’s Fund.

They raffled off roundtrip flights on Virgin America and V Australia (complete with a hotel stay down under), which were won by the lucky Brooke George (see gallery). Celeb sightings included the Donnas, above — who played the first ever concert inside LAX for Virgin America’s Seattle-to-LAX launch back in April 2008 — Australian singer Ry Cuming, and Chris Cornell, as well as Kristin Bauer from “True Blood.”

For photos of the event (and yes, the celebrities), check out the gallery below! And if you live in LA, we hope you went to the SSMF, because it rocked all over the strip, from The Roxy Theater, House of Blues, The Cat Club, and Whiskey A-Go-Go to the legendary Viper Room.

So that’s what all the traffic was.

US bound flight grounded after “prank” September 11th bomb threat

A 21 year old electricians apprentice on his way from Brisbane to Los Angeles thought it would be fun to announce to fellow passengers that he had a bomb in his possession.

When the plane was still on the ground in Brisbane, he made the threat using the seatback entertainment system chat room. One passenger then alerted the crew, and the captain decided to have the passenger removed from his plane.

It took just under two hours to have his luggage removed and the plane underwent a thorough inspection. As if this wasn’t stupid enough, the guy made his threat on a plane that would land in the US on September 11th.

His attorney told the court that the actions were “ill-considered and childish in the extreme”. That is putting it lightly if you ask me. Amazingly, he got away with a mere $1300 fine, payable to the airline, and two years probation. The total cost to V Australia was about $20,000. As part of his guilty plea, no conviction will be added to his record, which probably means he’ll be able to fly to the US, though I doubt V Australia will be welcoming him any time soon.

I’d like to think that most people reading this understand the seriousness of making prank bomb threats, and I’m pretty sure that making them on a US plane or a US airport will cost you far more than just $1300.