Courtesy of Emirates

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

No. 3 Emirates

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Emirates has slipped slightly from No. 2, a spot it held for the past two years. While the airline maintained steady scores for cabin comfort, in-flight service, and food, readers demoted both the airline’s customer service and value scores this year. Still, there’s nothing wrong about coming in third. And forward-thinking innovations like the airline’s signature Shower Spa in first class should keep the airline up to speed with the very best.

World's Best Airlines

No. 3 Emirates

Emirates has slipped slightly from No. 2, a spot it held for the past two years. While the airline maintained steady scores for cabin comfort, in-flight service, and food, readers demoted both the airline’s customer service and value scores this year. Still, there’s nothing wrong about coming in third. And forward-thinking innovations like the airline’s signature Shower Spa in first class should keep the airline up to speed with the very best.

Courtesy of Emirates

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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