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The Best Of 2007

Dec 1, 2007
2007 / December 2007

When it comes to selecting the best that travel has to offer, who better to ask than someone who’s been there? Each year, Global Traveler asks the ultimate experts — you, our discerning, selective, well-traveled readers — to share your experience and your wisdom. Again this year you rose to the occasion, in greater numbers than ever before, naming the best of the best in 49 categories, from airlines and hotels to airports, aircraft, loyalty programs, destinations and much more.

This year’s survey of Global Traveler readers was conducted from Feb. 1 to Aug. 31, 2007. The open-ended questionnaires appeared in subscriber copies of the magazine and online at http://newgtsite.wpengine.com/survey and w,ere also distributed by direct mail and email to GT readers. Counting only those questionnaires in which more than 50 percent of the questions were answered, we received a record 15,828 individual questionnaires. The tabulated results of those questionnaires determined the rankings in each category. (Employees of the magazine and individuals associated with the travel industry were barred from participation.) These are entirely your awards — and we thank you for your thoughtful responses and enthusiasm.

Based upon the latest trends in travel and your responses to previous surveys, we added some new categories this year, including “Best Airline for Security,” “Best Aircraft Type,” “Best Domestic Tourism Destination” and four new airline categories within Asia. For the first time, we also asked you to name your picks for best domestic and international golf resorts, best cruise line and best global wireless service.

Each year we grow more impressed by our readers’ experience and global perspective. Your globility — that quality we define as openness to a world of cultures and experience — is well in evidence, and is what makes the recipients of these awards cherish the honor you have bestowed upon them.


FLYING HIGH

Singapore Airlines, which shared first-place honors last year, returned to the top spot solo as 2007’s “Best Airline in the World.” And the airline isn’t resting on its laurels; we caught up with Singapore Airlines representatives in Sydney as they were counting down to the first-ever commercial flight of the new super-jumbo Airbus A380 aircraft on Oct. 25, which proudly wore Singapore Airlines colors.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for travelers, with an unprecedented number of aircraft technology and in-flight comfort innovations taking place,” said Singapore Airlines spokesman James Boyd. “It’s a forward-looking time for aviation. And it’s all designed to create a better benefit in terms of comfort, connectivity and control for the passenger.”

As the world watched the countdown to the first commercial flight of the A380 — a charity auction for tickets on the flight raised $1.25 million — Singapore Airlines continued to raise its game on multiple fronts. In 2007, it incorporated a full suite of office applications into the Kris- World entertainment system on its Boeing 777-300ERs; neared completion of a full transition to e-ticketing (the first non-U.S. airline to do so); expanded and enhanced its mobile flight notification system; introduced a Popular Local Fare program featuring the “comfort foods” of departure cities around the globe; established new in-flight and online shopping catalogs for its first- and business-class passengers; and celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Singapore Airlines also won in another category newly added to the survey: “Best Airline in Southeast Asia.”

“We are certainly gratified that the readers of Global Traveler chose us for these honors,” Boyd said. “We find it incredibly satisfying that they are responding to our philosophy of using design technology and an ironclad service philosophy to create the best possible experience for the passenger.”

Emirates remains, for the third year in a row, our readers’ choice as “Best Airline for International First Class.” From the airline’s complimentary chauffeur service to its exclusive lounge in Dubai to its cutting-edge in-flight entertainment system, GT readers find that Emirates best defines long-haul first-class service.

Readers once again named American Airlines “Best Airline for Domestic First Class.” Multiposition headrests, Bose noisecanceling headphones, duvets, and the airline’s famed attention to its menus and wine selection are among the reasons why.

“American Airlines is delighted that Global Traveler magazine awarded us with the ‘Best Airline for Domestic First Class,’” said Lauri Curtis, American’s vice president- onboard service. “We continue to take steps to ensure a wonderful in-flight experience for our premium class customers, including everything from upgrading the cabin interior to enhancing the dining experience.”

“Best Airline for Business Class” honors go, for the third year in a row, to British Airways. The airline’s Club World cabins, which set a new standard when they were introduced in 2000, are being completely upgraded, with all the airline’s Boeing 747s boasting the new cabins this year and the Boeing 777s following in the first half of 2008. Your votes say it’s true that British Airways does business best.

Virgin Atlantic made a big jump in the ranks this year to capture the award as “Best Airline for Premium Economy Class.” The newly enhanced dedicated cabins, with 21-inch-wide seats, preflight drinks and after-dinner liqueurs, and meals served on china dinnerware, clearly impress our readers, as did Virgin Atlantic’s other business- class-style amenities such as designated Premium Economy check-in desks.

For the fourth consecutive year, Asiana Airlines won our readers’ votes for “Best Airline for Onboard Service and Flight Attendants.”

“The only thing harder than getting to be the best at what you do is staying the best,” said Tae Keun Han, Vice President for Cabin Service, Asiana Airlines. “It’s incredibly hard to maintain that level of discipline and excellence, yet that’s exactly what the flight attendants of Asiana Airlines have done by winning this award for a recordshattering fourth year in a row.”


REGIONAL REWARDS

Our readers named Air Canada as the “Best Airline in North America” for 2007, the second year in a row. In fact, Air Canada took two first-place honors in our 2007 poll; readers also named it “Best Airline in Canada.”

“Air Canada is very proud and honored to be selected for the second year in a row as both the best airline in North America and the best airline in Canada by Global Traveler’s survey of the world’s most discerning travelers,” said Ben Smith, executive vice president- commercial at Air Canada. “In part, this reflects the success of our customer service innovations, such as lie-flat seats in our international Executive First service and our new, personal audio and visual systems at every seat on all our planes.

“As importantly, it is evidence of the commitment of our employees to providing excellent customer service to all passengers,” he continued. “We believe our position as the leading North American carrier will be strengthened even further by our new airport facilities at our main hub in Toronto, which provide convenient, seamless connections for U.S. customers traveling either elsewhere in Canada or throughout the world on our extensive global network.”

Air France was our readers’ pick for “Best Transatlantic Airline” for the third year running. In the past year, the airline completed the conversion of its L’Espace Affaires cabins on its Boeing 777-200ER aircraft to include full-flat seats with 61 inches of pitch, following on a similar upgrade of its 777-300ERs last year. The airline also takes advantage of sparkling new facilities at Paris Orly (ORY) and Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airports, and has begun the rollout of its new lounge design with the opening of its lounge at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT).

For crossing the Pacific, GT readers voted Thai Airways International “Best Transpacific Airline” for the fourth straight year.

Scandinavian Airlines regained the top spot as “Best Airline in the Nordic Countries” (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), a position it has held for three out of four years. “This has been a notable year for SAS transatlantic service,” said Jorgen Holme, SAS Director of Marketing-The Americas. “We introduced the SA S Business Sleeper seat and redesigned our premium Economy Extra service. We launched a new, innovative fare structure that eliminates ‘one size fits all’ round-trip fares, and gives customers flexibility and simplicity. Passengers can now purchase round-trip travel on SAS as separate one-way fares, and combine travel in different classes on the same ticket.”

Four other airlines also repeated as winners in their respective regions: Qantas as “Best Airline in the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand;” Malev as “Best Airline in Eastern Europe;” South African Airways as “Best Airline in Africa;” and Qatar Airways as “Best Airline in the Middle East.” Qatar increased its base of readers familiar with its services this year when it began operating daily service between New York (JFK) and Doha (DOH). The airline also opened its new terminal at Doha International, exclusively for the use of its departing business- class passengers, with such amenities as a spa and available secretarial service.

Because our readers travel to all corners of the globe, we continue to expand our survey to provide guidance on the best everywhere. This year, we looked more closely at Asia by establishing four new award categories. Readers named Cathay Pacific “Best Airline in North Asia (excluding China),” China Southern Airlines “Best Airline in China,” and Jet Airways “Best Airline in Central/South Asia (including India).” The fourth category award, as mentioned earlier, went to our overall winner, Singapore Airlines, as “Best Airline in Southeast Asia (Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and the Philippines).”

We added one more new airline category this year: “Best Airline for Security.” Although airlines around the world have been beefing up their security efforts, the award goes to the granddaddy of securityminded airlines, El Al. This year El Al continued to innovate in the realm of safety and security; passengers departing from Israel can now call ahead and have security personnel come to their homes or hotels to clear them and their baggage for faster boarding.


AIRS AND GRACES

With the increased security of recent years, our well-traveled readers are spending more and more time in airports, making them uniquely qualified to rate their services. The favorite, for the second year in a row, is Seoul Incheon Airport (ICN), 2007’s “Best Airport in the World.” The spectacular terminal is the heart of this “winged city,” with loads of world-class shopping and even a driving range for whiling away those hours in between flights.

Closer to home, for the fourth year running our readers named Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) “Best Airport in North America.” Sure, the weather can make it a bear sometimes, but Chicago loves its Bears, and if travelers have to kill time in an airport, they say that O’Hare is the best place to do it.

And speaking of using your airport time wisely, Continental Presidents Club takes pride of place in the category of “Best Airport Lounges” for the second year in a row. Continental’s 27 private airport club rooms are open to members and to Business- First and International Business Class passengers, and members can also use 40 other airline clubs around the world through affiliate agreements. The airline calls its clubs “your private oasis,” and GT readers agree, with amenities that include complimentary bar, beverages and snacks; agents to assist with reservations and seat assignments; free high-speed wireless Internet access; and — at the Houston (IAD) and Newark (EWR) Presidents Clubs — highend wines to sample.

“We put a lot of emphasis on making sure members receive good treatment and valuable amenities during their visit,” Continental Airlines spokesman Dave Messing said. “The free WiFi is very popular, and we are also getting excellent response to our premium wine selections, sold by the glass. We intend to keep packing value into a Presidents Club membership.”

Access to alliance lounges is only a small part of what constitutes the “Best Airline Alliance.” That award goes again to SkyTeam, for the third consecutive year. Airline members of the SkyTeam alliance are Aeroflot, Aeroméxico, Air France, Alitalia, Continental Airlines, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, KLM, Korean Air and Northwest Airlines, and th is year the alliance added associate members for the first time: Air Europe, Copa Airlines and Kenya Airways. China Southern also recently joined the alliance as a full member. With its members serving 70 cities in 22 countries in the Asia-Pacific region alone, and with the Beijing Olympics coming soon, SkyTeam is promoting an Asia Pass that lets passengers on any of the member airlines purchase, along with an intercontinental round-trip ticket to Asia or the Pacific, up to eight discounted regional flight coupons on five member carriers.

Since our readers spend even more time in the air than they do biding their time in airports and lounges, we asked them this year, for the first time, to name their favorite aircraft type. The winner of the “Best Aircraft Type” award is the venerable Boeing 747, which continues to lend itself well to the redesigned cabins imposed on it as airlines upgrade their offerings. Of the top 10 aircraft types named as “best” by GT readers, Boeing dominated the list with five.

Frequent flyer programs came under scrutiny this year, with inquiries into what seems to be a diminishing number of award seats and too little transparency regarding program rules. Which one shines? For the fourth year in a row, Global Traveler readers say that United Mileage Plus is the “Best Frequent Flyer Program.”

“We will continue to provide our members one of the most comprehensive programs that rewards their loyalty with value,” said Robert Sahadevan, United Airlines vice president-Mileage Plus.


CHECKING IN

A recent international study showed that American travelers are more loyal to their favorite hotels than are travelers from other parts of the world, and our reader votes bear out those findings. For the fourth year in a row, the award for “Best International Hotel Chain” goes to Park Hyatt, which has continued its expansion this year with new properties in China and Turkey and new suites in France, among many other upgrades designed to keep travelers happy.

Domestically, however, our readers broke the mold, returning two-time winner Westin Hotels & Resorts to the top spot as “Best Domestic Hotel Chain” after its second-place finish last year. And Mandarin Oriental hotels also overcame reader resistance to change, seizing the award for “Best Hotel Chain in Asia” for the first time and making a jump from last year’s third-place ranking.

Otherwise, GT readers prefer their hotels to be business as usual. Repeat winners are Fairmont Hotels & Resorts as “Best Hotel Chain in Canada;” Conrad Hotels as “Best Hotel Chain in Europe;” Sheraton Hotels & Resorts as “Best Hotel Chain in Latin America;” and Jumeirah International as “Best Hotel Chain in the Middle East.”

When readers have to single out an individual hotel that merits their loyalty, in the United States their choice is clear: for the third year “Best Hotel in the United States” is the Hotel Bel- Air in Los Angeles.

“We are deeply honored to once again be the recipient of Global Traveler’s annual GT Tested Award for excellence,” said Carlos Lopes, Hotel Bel-Air managing director. “In receiving this award, we realize that the contribution of every employee at the Bel-Air is vital to the success of our operations. As we look into the future, we are pleased to further enhance the guest experience with the introduction of our new spa in 2008.”

In Asia, the Lotte Hotel in Seoul was named “Best Individual Hotel in Asia” for the second straight year. The largest hotel in Korea earns its prestige, with 17 restaurants and bars and the largest duty-free shop in Asia, plus all the modern conveniences; fabulous suites for a long-term “home-away-from-home;” and even a chance to live the local culture in special suites designed along Korean or Japanese lines.

For the third straight year, the award for “Best Hotel Rewards Program” goes to InterContinental Hotels Group’s Priority Club Rewards. InterContinental properties rank high on almost all our lists for best hotels around the world, evidence that GT readers are racking up those Priority Club Rewards.


PLACES IN THE SUN

When it comes to naming the best business destinations, our readers beam down their approval upon two newcomers to our awards party. For the first time this year, the GT Tested award for “Best International Business City” goes to Rome, which jumps all the way up from the middle of last year’s list. Relative affordability in these days of a weak dollar, great food, new and ever-more-deluxe hot els, and all that history have finally made it the winning combination in our readers’ eyes.

This year, for the first time, we created a separate category for “Best Domestic Business City.” Here our readers were consistent in their voting: The top three cities that appeared on our global list of best business cities last year took the top three places in the new category. GT readers were glad to have the chance to say “I love New York!” as the Big Apple took pride of place among America’s great business cities.

For their leisure travel, readers look for sunny climes and lots to do. Again this year, Malaysia was named “Best International Tourism Destination.” We instituted a new category this year, “Best Domestic Tourism Destination,” and our internationally savvy readership picked a place that has it all — all the advantages of domestic familiarity in language, currency and culture, perched in the Pacific about as far from home as you can get and still be home: Hawaii.

“Hawaii continues to have unequalled allure to visitors, as this first-time award reminds us,” said Jay Talwar, senior vice president of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

“In our conversations with visitors, they appreciate the natural beauty, our world-class resorts, and the exciting activities that range from what they knew before arriving — surfing, swimming, snorkeling — to the surprising: zip-lines, horseback riding, cuisine, culture, eco- and soft-adventure tours.

“Add to that the welcoming appeal of Hawaii’s people and one can understand how the desire for a Hawaii vacation continues to resonate with visitors and sets the islands apart from other domestic destinations.”

Golfers may enjoy sunshine, but they don’t require perfect weather; they require the perfect test of their skill and the perfect combination of design and function. “Best Domestic Golf Resort,” our readers say, is Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina. “Best International Golf Resort” is one of the all-time classic names in golf: Gleneagles, in Auchterarder, Scotland.


BEST OF THE REST

We tapped into the wide-ranging expertise of Global Traveler readers to ascertain the best in quite a few other categories of the overall travel experience. Avis Preferred got the nod for “Best Car Rental Program,” moving up from last year’s third-place finish in the category.

“Best Credit Card Rewards Program” is perennial winner American Express Membership Rewards. Travelpro once again earns the nod as “Best Luggage Brand.”

Awards were also made in three categories not on last year’s list. Dubai has the “Best Duty-Free,” readers say. Verizon has the “Best Wireless Service in the World.” And when they’re setting sail, GT readers consider Cunard the “Best Cruise Line.”

The results of the Annual Global Traveler Wines on the Wing competition were published in our October 2007 issue. Thirty-six professional wine judges tasted and evaluated 120 wines submitted by 25 airlines. The results proved that you don’t have to be from a country that grows wine grapes to have exquisite taste in wine.

The overall winner of “Best Wines on the Wing” was EVA Air, which spends $2.5 million annually on its wine program — with almost half that amount allotted to business class.

“Best Red Wine” was Thai Airways’ Gevrey-Chambertin 2003 from Albert Bichot. “Best White Wine” was American Airlines’ J. Wegeler-Erben Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Spätlese 2004. “Best Sparkling Wine” was Air Tahiti Nui’s entry, Nicolas Feuillatte Réserve Particuliére, NV

Here’s a toast to all our 2007 winners!

 

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FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

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