SOURCE: Premier Traveler

Premier Traveler

December 16, 2013 09:00 ET

"Road Warriors" Salute Companies That Go the Extra Mile

Top Honors for 2013 Went to Etihad Airways, United Airlines, IHG Rewards Club and Starwood Latin America, Among Many Others

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - December 16, 2013) - At a red-carpet event held at the famous Sofitel L.A. on December 5, Premier Traveler magazine (PT) kicked off its annual charity fundraising auction benefitting Friends of CARRA (Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance), which fosters research leading to improved treatment and the discovery of a cure for childhood arthritis and related diseases.

The gala also celebrated the award-winning travel companies whose efforts throughout the year landed them on PT's reader-selected Best of 2013 list.  

For its consistent high quality and insistence upon excellent service, Etihad Airways impressed PT readers enough for them to crown the carrier a triple winner, choosing Etihad as the airline with the Best First-Class Service in the World, in addition to conferring upon the carrier Best Airline in the Middle East and Best Airline in the World for International Travel. As the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, Etihad has exploded upon the world travel scene within the last ten years, and its remarkable growth has been accompanied by services and amenities that have earned accolades the world over.

"We are delighted to be honored by the awards from Premier Traveler readers," said James Hogan, Etihad Airways' president and CEO. "Etihad has established a global reputation for style, service and hospitality and this recognition, especially in a market as competitive as the U.S., will help take our brand even further."

With the Middle East a growing sector in the travel industry, InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) was also recognized by reader respondents, who dubbed it the Best Hotel Chain in the Middle East for top-notch customer service and luxurious properties in the region.

IHG's loyalty program, the IHG Rewards Club, was itself doubly hailed for top honors by PT readers: For its generous policy of allowing members to redeem loyalty points at any hotel anywhere in the world, the club was dubbed the World's Best Hotel Loyalty Program. But the kudos didn't stop there: Citing the bounty of choices available for point redemption and the user-friendly concierge service, PT readers also granted the program the award for Best Overall Loyalty Program in the World, thus making IHG Rewards Club the clear category winner. 

South America is also experiencing rapid growth in the travel sector, and Starwood Latin America gained the favor of PT readers, who voted it the Best Hotel Chain in Latin America for its innovative services such as the workout clothing lending program, the Sheraton Social Hour and sumptuous amenities at the growing number of Starwood properties throughout the region.

"Starwood is very optimistic about Latin America," said Trip Barrett, VP of Brand Management. "The region is illustrative of the trends we are seeing around the world as rising wealth and ever greater global connectivity fuel new demand for travel along with new travelers." Reflecting his enthusiasm for Latin American travel, Barrett added: "We believe the best is yet to come."

Air New Zealand's ingenious seating and spacious onboard layout were two of the features appreciated by PT respondents, who gave the Kiwi carrier double honors of its own: Singled out not only as the Best Airline to Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific, the flag carrier from the tiny country was also chosen as the airline with the Best Premium Economy-Class Service in the World.

Chris Myers, Air New Zealand regional general manager, Americas and Europe, was effusive in his appreciation of the recognition from such a well-known travel publication, pronouncing it "fantastic." He went on to say: "We are proud to be the prime carrier operating between North America and New Zealand. These awards are testament to our staff who consistently work hard to deliver the Kiwi service and innovative in-flight products we have become famous for and set us apart from our competitors."

European carriers also nabbed a few honors, among them Best Airline to Europe, awarded to Lufthansa Airlines, whose investment in the future -- in the form of upgrades to its business-class product, additional routes and billions of euros' worth of new aircraft -- paints a bright picture for the carrier in the years to come.

For its elite Upper Class and continual focus on customer service with high style, Virgin Atlantic earned a pat on the back from readers as the Best Transatlantic Business-Class Service.

Said Chris Rossi, senior VP, North America: "Our Upper Class experience was created with our customers in mind -- from the limo service to the Clubhouses, the onboard bar and, of course, the longest lie-flat beds in the air. However, if I had to say the one single thing that stands out from our competitors, it would be our crew. They are the ones who make the difference to ensure that our customers have an enjoyable experience, whether they want to dine with a friend or colleague at their seat, meet new people at the bar or just have their bed made up for a relaxing sleep."

Not to be left out, domestic airlines came out on top in several categories, as well: Readers applauded another member of the Virgin Group, Virgin America, for its spotlight on business services by designating the carrier Best Domestic Airline with the Best In-Flight Service in North America.

"We're proud to be recognized by Premier Traveler readers both for the excellent service that our in-flight teammates provide every day, and as the best domestic U.S. airline," said President and CEO David Cush. "These are important awards for us, reflecting as they do some of the most frequent and discerning travelers out there, including business travelers."

United Airlines also captured two top honors, as the carrier with the Best 787 Layout and the Best Domestic Frequent-Flyer Program for its versatile and valuable MileagePlus loyalty program that offers extensive benefits to members flying the friendly skies.

Expressing appreciation for the awards, Tom O'Toole, senior vice president of marketing and loyalty and president of MileagePlus, said that the carrier's investments in the loyalty program "mirror the investments we're making in the travel experience" as a whole. He went on to say that "United is increasingly enabling customers to tailor their experiences with the flyer-friendly products and services they value."

As one of the hosts of the Best of 2013 gala, PT Editor-in-Chief Ally Miola offered an assessment of the value of the reader-selected awards: "Across the board, our Best of 2013 awards are like a scorecard for the travel industry," she said. "With our knowledgeable readers weighing in on everything from customer service to amenities to cuisine (and more) the list of winners reveals more than just the ways in which the travel industry is answering the call of the road warrior. It also reveals something about the frequent travelers themselves, not only in terms of needs and wants, but in discerning who they are as members of a global community of travelers, doing business on the go and in the air. We are delighted to present this opportunity to our readership and to the travel industry as a whole. It's what we at PT strive hardest to accomplish."

About Premier Traveler:
Premier Traveler was designed with its readers in mind: frequent travelers who are perpetually on-the-go (both domestically and abroad), who have high expectations and a taste for luxury. With a focus on excellence in writing and response to reader requests, Premier Traveler provides valuable and relevant insights in an intelligent, energetic style. The magazine is noted for responding to its readers, providing them detailed informational surveys, insider reviews and in-depth answers to issues concerning frequent travelers.

2013 "Best Magazine Article: U.S. Travel"
2013 "Best Magazine Article: Foreign Travel"
2013 "Best Business Travel Media Award"

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