Courtesy of Lufthansa

Get your vacation off to the right start by booking a flight on one of these top-rated airlines.

No. 20 Lufthansa

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After two years at No. 19, the German carrier is still in our top 20. Scores were little changed from last year, although Lufthansa was slightly dinged for service in the air and on the ground, as well as food. Economy class seats with 31-inch pitch keep those cabin comfort scores consistent, but value is apparently not the airline’s strong suit.

World's Best Airlines

No. 20 Lufthansa

After two years at No. 19, the German carrier is still in our top 20. Scores were little changed from last year, although Lufthansa was slightly dinged for service in the air and on the ground, as well as food. Economy class seats with 31-inch pitch keep those cabin comfort scores consistent, but value is apparently not the airline’s strong suit.

Courtesy of Lufthansa

World's Best Airlines

Buckling your airplane seatbelt and weight-loss personality Richard Simmons aren't things you'd necessarily think go together. But if you flew on Air New Zealand in the recent past, it's Simmons who may have video-instructed you how to buckle up.

Great companies always think outside the box, and Air New Zealand is no exception. In the most recent Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards survey, the Kiwi airline came in No. 2. And while readers didn't specifically rank in-flight entertainment, ANZ's fresh, amusing spin on the standard safety video surely gave passengers a memorable impression of the airline.

The factors our readers did vote on, across 76 global airlines: cabin comfort, in-flight service, customer service, value, and food. No one was surprised to see Singapore Airlines topping the list; it has been the No. 1 airline for the past 17 years. And Singapore Airlines must be doing something right—it didn't even have Richard Simmons entertaining its passengers.

While many of the best airlines are indeed Asian, it's remarkable that half of the airlines in the survey's top 10 rankings are from different continents. And they got to the top through more than stellar customer service. The survey's value category allows readers to voice their complaints—with a vote—about high airfares that offer little value for money. And while no one boards a plane for the sake of eating, a celebrity chef or commitment to better-than-average in-flight meals did have an impact on the results.

Cabin comfort is also key, and this is where creative carriers shine. In some cases, it's about providing power outlets at every seat. For others, like Asiana and Cathay Pacific, it's the introduction of premium economy class on transpacific flights—a gesture to passengers who dread coach seats on a 14-hour flight but can't afford a business class seat.

So in 2012, competition remains heady at the top. Find out which airlines earned the highest marks for a combination of innovation, service, and the perception that even if what they offer is fully priced, it remains good value.

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