It was a night to applaud great achievements: A November 9th gala at the soignée Sofitel Los Angeles celebrated the airlines, hotels and service providers voted Best of 2012 by 10,000 Premier Traveler magazine readers. Editor-in Chief Ally Miola took center stage alongside actor-writer-director Chad Michael Murray to honor airlines including Singapore, Asiana, ANA and Hainan, and to kick off the magazine's annual fundraising efforts for Ronald McDonald House New York providing a temporary "home-away-from-home" for pediatric cancer patients and their families.
Singapore Airlines took three awards, including Airline with the Best First Class Service in the World. Yachting is the pastime passengers may recall flying Suite Class on this world-renowned carrier. "The A380 is some of the most expensive real estate in the world," says James Boyd, Vice President, Public Relations. "So we engaged a designer of luxury yachts, who must accomplish the same goals, to help us utilize every square inch."
To create an atmosphere that is comfortable and comforting, both crucial to passengers aloft, Boyd notes, Singapore Airlines takes inspiration from stars in a variety of fields: Celebrity Chef Alfred Portale contributes the cutting edge culinary concept of bathing dishes in a 'nage,' herbed broth, to soften the drying effects of altitude, and Suite Class has hand stitched armchairs in the style of master Italian craftsmen at Poltrona Frau. And even if competitors may ultimately match the high end hardware and systems, personalized service is the foundation of Singapore Airlines' win for Best In-Flight Services in the World and Airline with the Best Economy-Class Service in the World, supported by its hub Changi Airport voted Best Airport in the World. "When passengers tell us our longest haul flights are their favorites," says Ken Bright, Vice President of Marketing-Americas, "we feel that's a testament to our cabin crews: their training, the selection process -- only 10% of those who apply are chosen -- and their dedication."
Flying Asiana Airlines, which took honors for Best Airline to Asia, Best Flight Attendants in the World and Best Airline Advertizing Campaign, can be a magical experience. Literally. Teams of flight attendants help passengers pass the time on long-haul flights with magic tricks, caricature sketches, mini facials and "The Delighter," a cultural pageant that revolves around 5,000 years of traditional Korean fashion. Will the sushi chef be on today's flight? Will I have time for a manicure and makeup consultation? We board every Asiana Airlines plane with a sense of charmed anticipation.
"Since our inauguration in 1988, Asiana has been centered on the philosophy of achieving customer satisfaction," says Mr. Tae-Keun Han, executive vice president of Airport and Cabin Services. "And it's this foundation that motivates the Korean carrier to take in-flight entertainment to new heights."
Does it seem as though business people travel on their stomachs? We know there's more to ANA's win for Best Trans-Pacific Business Class Service than the food: There's staggered seating to give many passengers a window AND an aisle, and a flock of new Boeing 787 Dreamliners waiting in the wings. Still, it takes some serious culinary chops to win an award for Best Airline Cuisine: Dishes like the thick, savory breakfast omelet redolent of earthy kudzu root from the two Michelin star chefs at Sekiyou, a traditional Japanese hot springs inn. "This is just one part of ANA's Inspiration of Japan," promises Yuji Hirako, Senior Vice President, ANA The Americas, "that transforms an airline cabin into a memorable one-of-a-kind traveling experience."
Another airline that goes the extra mile is Hainan Airlines, voted Best Airline in China. "Our people work hard day after day to provide personalized service to all our customers, and know many of them by name," says Managing Director, North America, Joel Chusid. "Those with special needs are especially looked after by our in-flight and ground staff. Still," Chusid notes, "as a fast-growing airline with global expansion plans, we are not immune to criticism. So when customers do contact us with a concern, we respond promptly and take it as a challenge to resolve the situation and avoid a recurrence."
Still, the evening's most dramatic moment may have been the heartfelt thanks bestowed by Frank Kalman upon Ronald McDonald House of New York, which supported his family during several rounds of daughter Calli's cancer treatment, an experience he compares to "running through a minefield carrying your child in your arms." On November 8th a healthy Calli appeared at her father's side, a college graduate and married the "love of her life," a story Patrick Khoury, Senior Director at Air Canada, found so inspiring he offered Calli and her new husband two tickets to anywhere the airline flies.
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