Best of the Best 2002: Travel: Best Airlines

Gourmet to Go

It may strike you as odd, but there are travelers who choose to fly Cathay Pacific Airways simply for the dim sum breakfast, on par with the dim sum served in Hong Kong’s best restaurants. Equally popular is the airline’s signature dessert, a double-milk custard laced with ginger, which wins praise from both Asian and Western travelers. Cathay Pacific has one of the world’s largest flight kitchens—built at a cost of $200 million—but the authentic Asian and Western dishes taste as if they are prepared to order, with the chef perfecting every plate before it is served. And as in any fine restaurant, the emphasis is on freshness, seasonal foods, and extensive menu choices.  

Cathay Pacific Airways, 800.233.2742, www.cathaypacific.com

Cellar in the Sky

It’s not much of a stretch to say that Singapore Airlines takes its wine service as seriously as its security screening. The airline spends $16.4 million on its wine program, far outstripping other carriers, and twice a year, it convenes a panel of experts to conduct a wine tasting and professional evaluation of vintages from around the world. All of the wines selected are stored with vintners in France or other locations, or in the airline’s own wine cellars, ensuring that their quality will not diminish before they are served. A fine wine left on the pier or stored at the wrong temperature will lose its appeal rapidly in spite of its premium label. In first class, passengers have their choice between two of the finest Champagnes—Dom Perignon or Krug—and can select from among 12 wines, as well as other carefully selected aperitifs and liqueurs.  

Singapore Airlines, 800.742.3333, www.singaporeair.com

 

Seat Upgrade

Finland is synonymous with good design. In fact, the most famous Finnish architect/designer, Alvar Aalto, would surely have approved of the redesign of Finnair’s interiors. Aalto preferred clean, simple lines, a kind of purity and freshness that is hard to capture on an airplane. But Finnair succeeded with carpets, curtains, wall coverings, and seat fabrics that are brighter and much more appealing than the previous decor. In business class (Finnair has no first class), passengers receive a boost in comfort as well. Adjustable reading lights at each seat are a worthwhile addition, as is a new type of headset that reduces any ambient noise. Most appreciated is a duvet for sleeping, rather than one of the typical postage-size blankets that barely covers your feet. Business class passengers also have the use of telephones at their seats and can send messages using the plane’s telefax. Next on the horizon will be e-mail connectors at your seat, which were in the works before 9/11.

Finnair, 800.950.5000, www.finnair.com

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