World's best airlines announced at Paris Air Show

By Laura Buckley
October 3, 2012
Courtesy <a href=" " target="_blank">Peng Chen/Flickr</a>

North American airlines didn't get much love at the 2011 World Airline Awards during last week's Paris Air Show. Held at the French Air and Space Museum, the awards were decided by over 18.8 million airline passengers from 100 different nationalities, who chose winners in 38 categories, from best airline to best meals in economy class.

In three of the big categories—Airline of the Year, Best Regional Airline, and Best Low-Cost Airline—us Yanks came up short. Asia-based airlines dominated, however, with Qatar Airways pulling in Airline of the Year, Dragonair winning Best Regional Airline, and Air Asia topping Best Low-Cast Carrier.

The Best International Airline in North America went to Air Canada, with Continental Airlines and Delta Airlines filling out the top three. Domestically, the Best Airline in North America went to jetBlue, followed by Virgin America, and WestJet.

The top 10 World's Best Airlines:

1. Qatar Airways

2. Singapore Airlines

3. Asiana Airlines

4. Cathay Pacific Airways

5. Thai Airways International

6. Etihad Airways

7. Air New Zealand

8. Qantas Airways

9. Turkish Airlines

10. Emirates

What do you think? Do you agree with the award winners?


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The Inspiration Behind Some of Our Favorite Reader Photos

In every issue of Budget Travel, we feature one of the best reader photos on our back page. Now, see the stories behind them. Madison, WisconsinThe University of Wisconsin students have a real sense of humor. Their Lady Liberty on the Lake prank is a classic image of Madison that has made it onto postcards all over the city. During the summer, I'm usually sailing on Lake Mendota, but when it's five below zero, you've got to take advantage of it, too. So one February, I decided to see it for myself. I took this shot from the Memorial Union Terrace, but I actually went out on the lake and took some close-ups as well. I know how deep the water is and it was completely disorienting to be walking on it. I've live here for 35 years, but sometimes you need to look at your own hometown through a tourist's eye.—Cliff Koehler, Madison, Wis. Top tip: When you shoot a larger-than-life landmark, include people in the frame to emphasize the dramatic scale. Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, JapanPhotography is very popular in Japan—sometimes it's hard to find a place to stand because you're surrounded by photographers. I'd managed to find a spot to shoot the stage performance at our town's annual flower festival when I saw a bunch of little girls dressed in kimonos, shouting and chasing one another. It definitely caught my attention—the Japanese are usually very reserved. So while the rest of the photographers were looking at the stage, I had these girls all to myself. It was pretty spontaneous.—Diana Ni, Iwakuni, Japan Top tip: To adjust for bright light, aim at a less sunny spot, push the shutter button halfway, and hold it. Then frame your subject and shoot. Mekong Delta, VietnamNo matter where you go in this country, you get an amazing palette of greens. From the rice paddies of the north to the jungles of the south, the color carries through—it's Vietnam's common thread. When you're on your way from Ho Chi Minh City to Ben Tre, deep in the delta, the Mekong is so expansive that it almost feels like a big lake. Then you turn into one of these tributaries, and you're in the middle of a tunnel of foliage. In this photo, the limitations of my point-and-shoot actually helped: As the camera tried to focus on the light, it created dark, blurred edges, which better conveyed the mood. The light streamed in through the canopy, and suddenly, you could see a path filled with water taxis and hte mostly older women who pilot them. They're stone-faced and businesslike, just doing their thing.—Steven Cypher, Pittsburgh Top tip: Don't be afraid of negative space! Try surrounding your subject with a dark or an empty frame to make the focal point pop. Havana, CubaI'd always wanted to go to Cuba to see the old cars and buildings, but I wasn't prepared for the amazing atmosphere of Havana's town squares: men playing instruments, ladies dancing, horse carts waiting to pick up passengers. When I travel, I tend to avoid portraits—landscapes can't make a fuss!—but when I saw this lady, I had to take her picture in front of this yellow wall. She spoke no English, and I don't speak Spanish well, so we used hand signals. She was silent the entire time, but her eyes were so playful and feisty as she pulled this fan out of nowhere and began showing off. Her expression drew me in—not unlike the dancers in the street who reeled in strangers to join them.—Giovanna Tucker, London. Top tip: When taking portraits outside, use the flash to light faces evenly; sunlight can often leave one side in shadow. Ehukai Beach Park, Oahu, HawaiiBelieve it or not, I'm petrified of water—I don't know how to swim and could drown in a bathtub. But photographing water fascinates me, which is why I come back to Oahu's North Shore year after year. As long as I keep my distance. I'm just fine, but I've taken out an insurance policy on my photography equipment! I took this shot in the late afternoon with the sun behind me so that the image wouldn't be blown out from the glare. Sometimes, I'll set the camera on continuous shooting mode and take several at once, following the wave from a swell to its final break. You have to be patient—you never know what you'll see. I've witnessed 30-foot walls of water. I've seen the pipeline when it was a graceful barrel, and I've seen it when it was the way it is in this shot—disheveled, unruly, ever-changing.—Diane Glatzer, Brooklyn, Ohio Top tip: Set your camera to a faster shutter speed. It will freeze the action of hte water so you can capture every droplet in the air. St. Paul's Cathedral, LondonI was interviewing for a job in London, and my potential employers flew me in for one day of meetings, with a flight home the next morning. Since I'd never been to the city, I treated myself to a quick tour. Suddenly, something very London occured: It started to pour. I happened to be passing St. Paul's Cathedral, so I dove in to escape the rain. I hadn't planned to stop, but because I was already inside, I decided to climb the famous dome. On the way up, I glanced out the windows. The sun had started to come out and the rain was clearing, so I ran the rest of the way to catch the view while I had the chance. The light was breathtaking, as the clouds cast geometric shadows on the square below. It didn't last long—the rain picked back up almost immediately. Little did I know you could stumble on such a great way to see the city.—Sheila Cherry, Columbus, Ohio. Top tip: Cloudy days can make for muted photos. Use iPhoto or Windows Live Photo Gallery to adjust contrast and make colors pop. Boyce, VirginiaThere were easily 100 photographers at the annual Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival—I have pictures of other photographers just jockeying for position. I got one great shot of a big red-and-purple balloon, but at a certain point I just gave up and was walking away when I spotted this dog. It had drifted up a little valley, and I realized if I could get to the right spot it was going to float directly in front of the sun. The thing about those balloons is that they're beautifully illuminated if you can get the light right behind them, and I managed to capture this just as the sun peeked out from behind the leg. It wasn't until I got home that I discovered exactly what I had.—Rick Collier, Reston, Va. Top tip: Don't sleep in. Sunsets get all the glory, but the golden light of sunrise lends photos crispness. (As do morning frost and fog.) Eiffel Tower, ParisTen years after my first trip to Paris, my mother and I returned to mark the anniversary. For almost the entire trip, the sky was cloudy and gray, and by the last day, we'd given up hope of snapping that Perfect Photo. Somewhat defeated, we sat on a bench near the Eiffel Tower. Just then, the sun emerged, and with it, out came the Parisians! With only one bar left on my camera's battery, this ended up being my last picture of the trip. Everyone takes the classic vertical shot to fit the whole tower in the frame, but that way, you miss so much life below it. I chose to focus on just the base to capture the Frisbees, the cotton candy, the tourists in line. I've still never made it to the top—I'm too distracted by what's going on underneath.—Lauren Meshkin, El Segundo, Calif. Top tip: Avoid using the LCD screen, flash, or timer unless you need them for the shot. They draw serious charge from your battery. Easter Island, Chile. There is such mystery surrounding the moai of Easter Island. These monoliths date back at least 500 years and were somehow scattered by the hundreds across this South Pacific island. On an around-the-world trip, my wife and I made a point to visit the iconic stone statues, but we wanted to capture them in a unique way. To achieve this shot, we created a whole theater out there in the middle of the night. I set my camera to a 30-second exposure, while three others in our group "painted" the moai with the beams from their flashlights, leaving the statues perfectly bathed in light. The setting, on the other hand, required no special effects. Because there are no big cities on the island and thus no light pollution, there were more stars in the sky than I had ever seen in my life.—Andy Coleman Top tip: At night, it's difficult for digital cameras to auto-focus on faraway items. To compensate, set to manual and focus to infinity. Bali, IndonesiaI've always been struck by that classic image of Balinese women carting mountains of fruit on their heads. On a recent trip to the island, our hotel manager in the tourist town of Ubud told us about a Hindu festival in his village 30 minutes away, and I jumped at the chance to go. The event didn't disappoint: The priests, the men gambling, the gamelan music—and we were the only foreigners there. Wandering down the road, I came upon this duo headed toward the temple, carrying offerings to be blessed by a Hindu priest. They never stopped walking, and I never said anything. Undistracted, they exuded such a natural calm and beauty. I felt as if I'd been waiting my whole trip for exactly this shot.—Judi Fenson, San Diego, Calif. Top tip: For portraits of people in motion, leave space in the frame for the subject to move toward. It feels more realistic and unposed. Coney island, Brooklyn, N.Y. I've been visiting Coney Island since I was a child, but I've never been a huge fan of rides. I go for the ambiance. There's something thrilling about watching tourists scream for their lives. On this particular June day, I was just wandering around eating a shish kebab, enjoying the warm weather. Right as I was about to leave, I found myself under the Brooklyn Flyer, just as the ride—and the screams—started up. I was able to capture the scene from an unexpected angle, and now, every time I look at it, I can't help but feel a bit queasy, as if I were in one of those seats!—Jorge Quinteros, Queens, N.Y. Top tip: Avoid blur when shooting fast-moving objects by using your "action" setting (look for a running man icon). Potala Palace, Tibet As a child I saw Potala Palace, the Dalai Lama's former home, on a postcard. After that, I always dreamed of visiting it. In 2005, my wife and I arranged a trip to Tibet, and I finally got my chance. We arrived at the palace at midday, and the contrast between old and new immediately struck me: the traditionally dressed Buddhist monk using a digital camera; the sparkling new fountains in front of the 17th-century building. The scene was undeniably contemporary, but somehow it was just as wistful and aged as the postcard I saw all those years ago.—Jackson Ng, San Francisco, Calif. Top tip: You should generally use a flash for shots in high sun. It pops the foreground and eliminates shadows. St. Peter's Basilica, RomeA few years ago, my husband and I took our first trip to Rome. Because of a nasty flight delay, we were completely exhausted by the time we reached our first stop, the basilica; we hadn't slept in about 36 hours. The church was predictably crowded—people were going this way and that, gawking at the ceiling, taking photos—but at the same time, it was nearly silent. These amazing beams of late-afternoon light poured through the oculus, and you could feel a palpable presence in the room. Even now, we look at this picture and both get the chills. —Jennifer and Marty Flinn, Lompoc, Calif. Top tip: When you can't use a tripod, squeeze your elbows into your chest for support, inhale, exhale, and shoot. Brooklyn Bridge, New York CityThis photo is all about what you can't see: the New York skyline. Unlike in other cities (say, fog-filled San Francisco), Manhattan's skyscrapers are almost always visible, no matter the weather or vantage point. But when this blizzard hit about 10 years ago, everything seemed to just disappear. To capture the moment, I grabbed my camera and headed across the Brooklyn Bridge. Without the lights of the city, it felt like another world. These four people were the only ones I saw. Collectively, it was as if we were members of a secret and privileged club—and no one else on earth knew we were there. —Martrese White, Portland, Ore. Top tip: For low-light shots, stabilize shaky hands with a tripod. Also use your camera's timer to minimize unnecessary jostling when snapping the shutter. Sintra, PortugalMy husband, our two teenage daughters, and I were on a weeklong camping trip in Portugal about a year ago, and we stopped in Sintra, a medieval hill town of castles and alleyways about 30 minutes northwest of Lisbon. While everyone else set off in search of a bakery, I took a blissful walk on my own. Down a side street, I spotted two musicians playing bandoneones while a couple danced slowly, like they were completely in love. If I could explain Sintra with just one picture, this would be it: romantic, timeless, and enchanting. —Miriam Cinquegrana, Tappan, N.Y. Maui, HawaiiIn April, my girlfriend and I went to Maui, where I signed up for a motorized hang-gliding flight off the Hana coast. After strapping in at Hana Airport, the guide and I rose to about 4,000 feet. At that point, he cut the engine, and we drifted down. Below, I saw the waterfalls at Oheo Gulch, a full-circle rainbow, and the black-sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park. My adrenaline was pumping the whole time. It may have been the altitude, sure, but it was also thrilling to see the island in a way that so few visitors get to. —David Shrader, Bothell, Wash. Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre, ParisIn February, my friend and I added a two-day Paris layover to our return flight from India. While climbing the steps of Sacré-Coeur, I spotted a group of schoolchildren, each clutching a balloon. Their excitement was palpable; something was definitely about to happen. Sure enough, their teacher gave a signal, and the children released the balloons with a high-pitched chorus of "au revoir!" Neither of us speaks much French, so we never figured out what the event was all about, but somehow the mystery made the scene that much sweeter. —Jen McDonald, Nashville, Tenn. Oia, Santorini Island, GreeceIn September 2008, I went to Oia, on Greece's Santorini island, with my mother-in-law and two friends. I'd planned the getaway carefully, but somehow I forgot to pack my swimsuit, so I picked up a bright-pink bikini in Athens. It's the kind of thing I would never normally wear; it doesn't cover much. One afternoon, we came back to our vacation rental, the Oia Riva Villa, and hung our suits up to dry. Something about the color of the two-piece against the whitewashed walls struck me. In the early evening light, this little scene perfectly captured the essence of our trip. —Lara Dalinsky, Alexandria, Va. Plaza de Armas, Cuzco, PeruAfter a full day of sightseeing in Cuzco, my girlfriend, Brittany, and I were exhausted. To catch our breath—literally, since the city sits at 11,024 feet—we retreated to the second-floor balcony of La Retama restaurant. Toward the end of the meal, I put down my pinot grigio and spotted this inverted reflection of La Compañía church in my glass. I started snapping photos, and this shot was the best of five. It captures the spirit of the moment and will always remind me of a life-changing trip. —Thomas Cox, Lexington, Ky. Lake Atitlán, GuatemalaOn my second day in Panajachel, a town on the northern shore of Guatemala's Lake Atitlán, I got up around 5 a.m. to prowl around. The lake is normally very busy with boats, but at this hour, it was deserted, save for this solitary fisherman rhythmically casting his net. It seemed he'd been out on the water long before the sun came up, and I got the impression that he'd be there for hours more. I didn't plan this shot, but he happened to move just where I wanted him to be. —Rebecca Wilks, Peoria, Ariz. Piazza della Rotonda, RomeOn our first day in Rome, my partner, Anthony, and I set out to see the city's ancient monuments. There was so much activity—couples kissing on the Spanish Steps, tourists crowding the Trevi Fountain, nuns snapping photos with their cell phones. After a long walk, we stopped for dinner as the sun set over the Fountain of the Four Rivers, and at sundown, we started to retrace our steps. In the darkness, everything was still buzzing, but it was somehow hushed—reverent, even. Locals and visitors sat at cafés outside the Pantheon, taking it in and perhaps imagining the millions of people who have shared this same experience. —Timothy State, Chicago, Ill. Just back from a trip? Upload your pictures to, and we just might feature one on our back page.


A pool floating in New York's East River?

Even though New York City is surrounded by water (Manhattan is an island, after all) New Yorkers don't seek respite from the summer heat by jumping in the nearby rivers. We lie on a pier, or go to a city pool, or nearby beaches like Fire Island, the Jersey Shore, or the Hamptons, but we don't hop in the Hudson or East Rivers because they're just&hellip;dirty. Gross. Luckily, that could all change by next summer with the (hopeful) construction of +Pool, a pool that uses and filters the dirty river water it rests in. Created by Dong-Ping Wong, Archie Lee Coates IV, and Jeffrey Franklin, the pool essentially acts like a giant strainer dropped into the river with a filtration system that is designed to remove everything from large objects, like floating trash, to microorganisms, like bacteria and viruses. +Pool is not separate from the water or pumped full of chlorine; rather, it is the river&hellip;just clean. The idea came about last year during a scorching hot NYC summer. Wong, Coates, and Franklin wanted to cool off in the water, but no one would take the plunge. So they came up with the concept to use the city's natural resource surrounding them and and provide a clean and safe way for the public to enjoy it. They refer to +Pool as a "floating pool in the river for everyone," which is why it's shaped like a + so it can accommodate four distinct types of swimmers and their pools&mdash;children, sports, lap, and lounge. And +Pool isn't limited to New York City; any city with a dirty body of water can have one. The creators have teamed up with the global engineering firm Arup to try and make this pool become reality by summer 2012. (Arup is also the firm behind the Sydney Opera House and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.) But first, they need to raise a bit more money to test the filtration materials and methods before they can start construction. Would you like to see +Pool in your local river? Tell us below. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL The world's most amazing hotel pools Summer lake towns 2010 Great surf spots you've (probably) never heard of


Great surf spots you've (probably) never heard of

In honor of International Surfing Day on June 20, and another 'endless' summer (shaka!), we asked the Surfrider Foundation to put together a list of some lesser-known surf spots around the country that everyone from the novice to the experienced rider can enjoy. "I tried to pick spots that are legit from a surfing standpoint, but for various reasons don't get the attention that they deserve," explained Matt McClain of the Surfrider Foundation, an international non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of coastlines. McClain put together this list from West Coast to East: 1) Pine Trees, Kauai, Hawaii: Located off the sleepy surf town of Hanalei on the north shore of Kauai, Pine Trees offers an escape from the circus-like atmosphere of Oahu's North Shore. It's a fun break for intermediate and advanced surfers, while beginners can find gentler waves in front of the nearby pier. 2) Yakutat, Alaska: If you want to get away &mdash; far away &mdash; then Yakutat is the place. Don't let the towering Sitka spruce and bald eagles fool you. Yakutat is a bona fide surfing destination that has drawn some of the biggest names in professional surfing. 3) Cowell's, Santa Cruz, California: Located just inside the famous break at Steamer Lane, Cowell's is the perfect spot to learn how to surf. This break is renowned for its gentle peaks and long, rolling waves. A number of surf schools operate here. 4) Burnout, Torrance, California: Despite being one of the most photographed spots in Southern California, Burnout is still relatively unknown outside of the South Bay. A quintessential California beach break, on any given day pro surfers like Alex Gray and Holly Beck can be found pulling into the barrels at Burnout. 5) Trails, San Clemente, California: Technically part of San Onofre State Beach Park, Trails is often overshadowed by the park's other spots, Trestles and San Onofre. The surf itself is not the most amazing you'll ever ride, but the laid-back atmosphere and dog-friendly policy make it worth the trip. 6) Reef Road, West Palm Beach, Florida: With it's clear, warm water, Reef Road is about as good as Florida surfing gets. A popular spot with local surfers, the sandy bottom break can range from three- to six-footers, up to two times overhead on a storm swell. 7) The Cove, Cape May, New Jersey: If The Cove were located in California or Hawaii, it would probably be as famous as Malibu or Waikiki. The Cove is primarily a longboard spot and attracts surfers of all ages and abilities. 8) Alamo, Montauk, New York: Located out on the tip of Long Island, Montauk pulls in all kinds of waves and weather. The hearty souls that are willing to brave the wind and strong currents are rewarded with thick heaving lefts (waves that break from left to right when you're looking out from the beach). This spot is for experienced surfers only. There's also a whole host of activities taking place around the country, and around the world, over the coming days in honor of International Surfing Day. For a schedule of events and additional information about the day set aside for celebrating the sport of surfing, go here. More from Budget Travel: Legendary Surf Towns The Swellest Little Town in Costa Rica Movie Quest: Chasing an endless summer, finding a lifetime passion


Hotel bathtubs are an endangered species

Remember the hotel bathtub? The sanctuary where you could take a lingering soak after a long day, hands and feet pruning? Well, many hotel chains are replacing bathtubs with larger showers. The reason? Many travelers prefer showers, especially showers that are walk-in, glass-enclosed units with pulsing jets of water. Yet while showers may be great for many business travelers in a rush, what about vacationing families with small children? Or what about mature travelers who want to unwind during their vacation? You have to wonder. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('51615d44-5341-48e7-8df3-d63cdb61ea0d');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info) Says USA Today: Holiday Inn has gone from roughly 95 percent of its newly built hotels having tubs a decade ago to only 55 percent of new structures featuring them now. Marriott plans for 75 percent of the chain's rooms to have showers only. What about you? Would you rather have a spacious, fancy shower than a bathtub at your hotel? Please vote in our poll and feel free to speak your mind by posting a comment. Thanks. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Open secret websites for booking hotels You've stayed at bad airport hotels, now stay at a good one Why cruise ships almost never stay in port overnight