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At airlinetrends.com we are continuously on the lookout for innovative products and services launched by airlines around the world as a response to industry and consumer trends. Taking a cue from the famous line of sci-fi writer William Gibson that "the future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed," we are kicking 2011 off with our take on the 11 most innovative airlines to keep an eye on in the coming year.

The airlines on our list do not necessarily feature on the various 'best airlines in the world' surveys that are published regularly. We aimed to select airlines that have come up with interesting innovations in recent years, be it as part of a company culture of continuous innovation, a strategy to challenge the industry status quo, or as part of efforts to catch up after years of underinvestment.

Be it either to learn from, get inspired by, or even copy from, the 11 airlines we have selected provide an overview of what innovative products and services passengers are experiencing on airlines around the world.

The "11 innovative airlines to keep an eye on in 2011" series is also available as a free 20-page report.
11 innovative airlines to keep an eye on in 2011
#1: Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand (ANZ) tops our 2011 list of most innovative airlines in the world, having redesigned its long-haul inflight experience from scratch. Innovations include 'Skycouches' in Economy, 'inner' and 'outer' Spaceseats in Premium Economy, food and drinks ordering via the IFE system, while an inflight concierge hosts wine tastings and kids storytelling in the galleys. Read more...

#2: All Nippon Airways

All Nippon Airways (ANA) has upgraded its long-haul product (First Class suites, flat beds in Business, helicopter transfer to downtown Tokyo) to court business travellers at a time its major competitor JAL is restructuring. On short-haul, ANA has reduced free amenities, introducing paid options instead, and will also launch a low-cost carrier. Read more...

#3: Lufthansa

With the introduction of its first A380 in May 2010, Lufthansa has initiated a product revamp across its fleet, including a new First Class, reportedly full-flat beds in Business Class by the end of 2011, and a new short-haul cabin. The airline is also upgrading its lounges, re-introduced inflight Internet and will be the first airline to use biofuel on commercial flights. Read more...

#4: Delta Air Lines

Delta is investing a massive USD2 billion to upgrade its products and services: Flat-bed Business seats on long-haul, a new 'Economy Plus' class, inflight Wi-Fi on all domestic flights and 'Red Coats' service agents at U.S. airports. The airline has also introduced some interesting innovations, such as an 'iPad' restaurant concept and wireless charging pads. Read more...

#5: Finnair

Finnair has found itself a niche by focusing on routes between Asia and Europe via its Helsinki hub, and is about to further upgrade the customer experience to attract more Asian passengers. Current services include a sauna for transit passengers at Helsinki Airport, and flat-bed Business seats as well as local Asian crew, catering and inflight entertainment in the air. Read more...

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#6: Southwest Airlines

Living up to its 'LUV' airline code, Southwest encourages employees to make a difference and does not 'nickle and dime' its customers: Bags that fly for free, free drinks onboard on special occassions and downtown cafes in NYC and Denver. Southwest is also eyeing business travellers with fast track, inflight Wi-Fi and a renewed loyalty program. Read more...

#7: KLM

KLM is using 'Dutch Design' to give a local, cool, twist to its inflight experience. The airline is an early adopter of self-service options such as DIY luggage check-in, has a strong focus on sustainability (e.g, catering, upcycling, biofuel) and has launched interesting social media campaigns, such as KLM Surprise, personalized luggage tags, and crowdsourcing initiatives. Read more...

#8: Virgin America

With its iconic mood lighting, RED inflight entertainment system, fleetwide Wi-Fi, power outlets in all seats and social media savviness, San Francisco-based Virgin America has established itself as a hip operation tuned into the 'digital lifestyle'. Available for order via the IFE system, the airline's inflight menus focus on locally-sourced food and beverages. Read more...

#9: Cathay Pacific

Further upping its service standards, Cathay Pacific is about to introduce a new Business Class cabin, has just launched a new 'techno' lounge, is upgrading its existing lounges, and will introduce a Premium Economy class and inflight connectivity by 2012. Onboard rice cookers, toaster ovens and espresso machines add a fresh element to Cathay's catering offer. Read more...

#10: Emirates Airline

Rapidly growing Emirates is already the largest airline in the world in terms of international passenger kilometers and is mostly known for its dazzling fleet expansion (over 200 widebody aircraft on order) and the inflight extravaganza on its A380 flagships (suites, showers, bar). The airline has also introduced some interesting, lesser known innovations. Read more...

#11: Asiana Airlines

South Korea-based Asiana Airlines offers thoughtful ground services such as 'PreMom', 'Happy Mom' and a coat storage service. In the air, Asiana ups catering standards with an onboard chef, sommelier, and sushi chef on select flights. The airline also recently introduced new flat-bed seats in Business Class and a full-fledged IFE system on short-haul flights. Read more...

11 Innovative airlines to keep an eye on in 2011 | Download the report
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