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Trip Doctor: New Airline Survey from Skytrax Picks Global Favorites

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The plane surveys keep on coming. Just a few weeks ago, Trip Doctor reported on a slew of recent polls that give insight into what Americans think about flying nowadays. And at the recent Paris Air Show, Skytrax announced its winners for the 2013 World Airline Awards.  While the surveys we wrote about earlier show what American flyers are thinking, the Skytrax awards offer a more global scope, with respondents from over 160 countries taking part in the poll.

Some of the takeaways?

  • Emirates earns the coveted “Airline of the Year,” and wins for best Inflight Entertainment

  • Garuda Indonesia wins best Economy Class Seats and best Economy Class overall, making it a Top 10 scorer for the first time

  • All Nipon Airways claims the best Aircraft Cabin Cleanliness award

  • Cathay Pacific Airways is awarded best Cabin Staff

  • Etihad Airways nabs best First Class Seats and best First Class overall

  • AirAsia is the best Low-Cost Airline

If you’re thinking that the list seems dominated by Asian and Middle Eastern airlines, you’re correct. Of the Top 10 airlines, only 10th ranked Qantas hails from outside Asia and the Middle East.

See the full results here

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team.

Photo courtesy of Emirates

The Doctor Recommends: Must-Reads for the Week Ending July 12, 2013

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Tired of waiting at customs? This pilot program lets businesses pay to ease border delays, as covered by TravelMole. (Adrien Glover)

A tongue-in-cheek look from Gadling's Libby Zay as to why it might be nice to live in an airport. (Peter Schlesinger)

The Economist investigates how five-star hotels have become the only place for Mumbai's new rich to socialize. Brunch, anyone? (P.S.)

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Trip Doctor: The Lesson of Asiana Flight 214

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The cause of Saturday’s crash of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport, which left two dead and a number of others critically injured, remains under investigation. The latest reports from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) indicate that the airplane’s approach speed for landing was well below what it should have been. The pilots apparently realized the problem, but it was too late to correct it. The NTSB investigation—which could take months, if not years—will determine whether a mechanical failure or human error (or some combination or the two) was responsible. In the midst of intense media scrutiny, both the NTSB and the Air Line Pilots Association, the world’s largest airline pilot union, have cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the action of the crew in charge of the plane.

One thing that is apparent: the heroics of the flight attendants and other passengers who assisted in getting people quickly off the burning plane. Remarkably, 305 of the 307 passengers survived, a testament, as the Wall Street Journal reports, to on-board safety improvements (stronger seats; more flame-retardant materials), better crew training, and a nimble on-ground rescue crew.

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Live and On Demand TV Now Free on Southwest

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In this day and age, it’s pretty rare to hear about new services on flights—unless they come with a side of sticker shock. Southwest is an exception to the rule, as they’ve always maintained an anti-fee ethos, but we’re still impressed by their latest announcement: as of this week, the airline’s customers will enjoy free On Demand and live TV—all streamed to their mobile devices—via DISH Network on every WiFi-equipped Southwest flight. The lineup features most major networks (along with dedicated sports channels) as well as 75 on demand titles. The catch? It’s only free for a limited time. According to a spokesperson, the promotion will likely run through the end of the year; even then, all signs point to a reasonable $5 price tag for in-flight streaming once the deal expires. 

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

Trip Doctor: How to Prevent Altitude Sickness

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Most travelers can adjust to elevations below 8,000 feet with only minor headaches, treatable with over-the-counter medications. Even individuals in the best of shape, however, can suffer from worse symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, and sleep disruption. Overexertion increases the odds of experiencing altitude sickness, so take things slowly, stay hydrated, and limit alcohol consumption. When ascending above 8,000 feet, where the air becomes markedly thinner, limit your climb to 1,000 feet per day. Prescription medications such as Diamox and dexamethasone can lessen the effects of altitude sickness. As always, consult your doctor before taking any medication.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Photo credit: imagebroker / Alamy

Spotted: New Boarding System for United

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On a recent trip through Houston’s IAH, we noticed these unusual—but clever—markers, which United is now using to corral flyers waiting to get on their plane. Yes, we thought it was a bit odd as well—until we realized how much it organized the chaos of zone-by-zone boarding, eliminating the pre-emptive swarms that tend to crowd the gate.

Have you noticed any changes at the airport lately? Tell us at tripdoctor@aexp.com.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Nilou Motamed

Introducing Frequent Flier Miles… For Your Pet

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Clearly we’re not the only ones obsessed with globetrotting pets. This week, Virgin Australia launched a new program for its furry fliers, making them the second airline to offer frequent flier miles to its four-legged jet set (JetBlue, with its JetPaws initiative, has been offering miles for a few years). Miles get added to the human handler’s account—Peaches sure isn’t carrying her own status card—and members can expect a minimum of 300 points per pet flight. Now if only the flight attendants could pass out some kibbles along with those pretzels…

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo credit: istockphoto

United Airline’s New Frequent Flier Minimums

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Woe to frugal miles hoarders like me: United, the world’s largest airline, recently announced annual spending and mileage minimums in order to earn status on its frequent flier program. This seems to be the new reality among legacy carriers: United’s statement comes just a few months after Delta, the world’s second-largest airline, made a similar decree.

Come January 2014, United fliers will need to travel 25,000 miles within a year (or 30 qualifying flight segments) and shell out at least $2,500 total on fares—and buying tickets for other travelers don’t count—to qualify for Premier Silver, the program’s entry-level elite status. And for top-tier 1K Premier status, you need to spend a whopping $10,000. Check out the site for more details.

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No Snowden. No Turbulence. No Booze on Aeroflot Flight To Havana. Whah?!

Aeroflot has a drinking problem.

When reporters were duped on Monday into flying from Moscow to Havana on the Russian airline in hopes of interviewing National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the fugitive leaker was nowhere to be found. One passenger reported that the flight not only had no Snowden, it had "no turbulence and no booze." Seriously? No vodka?! On an Aeroflot flight?! It's true. The Moscow-Havana route is one of seven long-distance itineraries on which Aeroflot has banned alcohol in economy class. Why? Just watch the video above to get a sampling of the verbal assaults, fisticuffs, and other liquor-induced ill behavior seen on hundreds of Aeroflot flights every year. And now some legislators are considering even more stringent measures to stop the moonshine madness.

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How to Guarantee You'll Get In-Flight WiFi

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Despite travelers’ obsessions with being plugged in on the road, only 38% of domestic flights—and less than 1% of international flights—offer WiFi on board. Change is coming, with over 2,400 domestic and international flights rolling out Wi-Fi in the near future, but even then, in-flight web surfing will be far from ubiquitous, says data by flight engine RouteHappy. So here’s what the study suggests you do to make sure you stay connected in the skies:

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