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The World's 10 most Innovative AirlinesAt airlinetrends.com we are continuously on the lookout for innovative products and services launched by airlines around the world as they respond to changing customer needs and industry developments. Once a year, we wrap up our findings and select 10 airlines from around the world that in our view have launched a wide range of innovative products and services in the past year – 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.

The airlines on our innovative airlines ranking do not necessarily feature on the various ‘the world’s best airlines’ surveys. Instead, we aimed to select those airlines that have come up with interesting innovations that are an indication of the direction the airline passenger experience is heading in. Or in the words of sci-fi writer William Gibson: “The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.”
#1 Korean Air

South Korea’s flag carrier has established itself as a major hub airline for passengers travelling between Asia and North America, and with only 407 seats its flagship A380 features a duty free store and branded bar areas. An active proponent of Korean-style meals and organic produce, Korean Air also operates its own organic farm and serves passengers signature dishes such as bibimbab. Read more...

#2 British Airways

After several difficult years, British Airways has regained its footing with several key innovative programs and plans now in motion as part of a GBP 5 billion investment program. Overall, it will see BA’s customers benefitting from new aircraft, updated cabins and an array of service improvements such as iPad-equipped cabin crew and ‘height cuisine’ catering. Read more...

#3 Delta Air Lines

As part of a USD 2 billion upgrade program, Delta Air Lines has undertaken a large number of initiatives to address quality and customer satisfaction and “build a better airline, not just a bigger one.” Product and service innovations include 24/7 assistance via social media, wireless in-flight entertainment, real-time baggage tracking, and an iPad-based IFE rental service at the airport. Read more...

#4 KLM

KLM is teaming up with Dutch designers to develop onboard amenities and emphasize its Dutch origins. The airline is one of the few Western carriers to fly directly to 2nd-tier cities in China, is a frontrunner in the adoption of social media, has provided cabin crew with iPads to personalize service, while Economy passengers can opt for a more comfortable experience for an additional fee. Read more...

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#5 TAM

Currently in the process of merging with LAN from Chile to create the world’s eight largest airline group, fast-growing Brazilian airline TAM is about to make its mark internationally with completely redesigned cabin interiors. At the same time, the airline looks to consolidate its strong domestic position by targetting Brazil’s emerging middle class in innovative ways. Read more...

#6 Qatar Airways

Voted ‘Airline of the Year 2011’ and one of the few ‘5-Star Airlines’ in the sky, Qatar Airways looks to provide passengers with a consistent premium passenger experience at a time of rapid expansion. The Gulf-based airline is the first Middle Eastern carrier to operate the B787 Dreamliner, which will feature a very spacious Business cabin and the latest in in-flight entertainment. Read more...

#7 Virgin America

Operating out of the ‘eco-chic’ Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport, Virgin America has firmly established itself as a favoured choice among the urban, tech savvy flying demographic. With its iconic mood lighting, RED IFE&C system and social media fluency, the airline has turned the standard domestic air travel experience into something much more evocative and stylish. Read more...

#8 airBaltic

Entrepreneurial Latvia-based airBaltic is a hybrid low-cost airline that for example differentiates its Business Class by offering passengers organic, seasonal produce from local Latvian farmers, freshly brewed Nespresso coffee and complimentary iPads. Furthermore, airBaltic’s ‘travel megastore’ concept has seen the airline introduce a host of innovative ancillary products. Read more...

#9 AirAsia

In just a decade, AirAsia has become a leading pan-Asian carrier operating short-haul and long-haul low-cost flights. The airline rigorously focuses on keeping the world’s lowest unit costs, has one of the industry’s highest percentage of ancillary revenues, is a pioneer in social media, and has launched ‘hybrid’ services such as transit connections, fast track and onboard immigration. Read more...

#10 All Nippon Airways

ANA offers passenger amenities such as ladies-only bathrooms and aroma-based sleep support kits. The airline has overtaken Japan Airlines as Japan’s largest airline by passenger numbers and is using its new B787 Dreamliners to aggressively expand its international presence. At home, ANA is targetting new customer segments by launching two low-cost carriers during 2012. Read more...

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