Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, has taken the top award at this year's World Travel Awards (WTA), being voted World's Leading Airline by more than 180,000 travel industry professionals from over 175 countries.
The World Travel Awards recognise the very best airline, hospitality and tourism brands in the world, with industry experts vetting nominations for their customer relations, creativity, quality of service, product innovation and business acumen.
Etihad, the first Middle Eastern airline to win this prestigious award, was recognised for the excellence of its onboard product, luxurious airport lounges and strong service ethic during a period of phenomenal growth.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways' chief executive, said: "Three years ago, Etihad set itself one clear and simple goal - to be the best airline in the world. I am proud of the way Etihad people all over the world have embraced that vision, supporting our investment in state-of-the-art products by delivering superb customer service.
"Etihad is honoured to be recognised as the World's Leading Airline by travel agents and other industry professionals - the people who really know what travellers are looking for in an airline." In addition to being named World's Leading Airline, Etihad also picked up the award for Leading First Class for the second year in a row.
Mr Hogan said: "Winning the Leading First Class category two years in a row tells us that our commitment to continuous investment in our product and service is the right strategy for us and for our customers.
"Only two months ago we reinforced this commitment with the launch of our new first class private suite, which is currently available on our London services and being rolled out to Australia, Europe, the USA and the rest of our three-class fleet next year.
"Our intention with this new suite was to raise the bar in premium air travel and based on the incredible feedback we are already receiving, we have achieved that."
Mr Hogan said Etihad would not be resting on its laurels. Advanced Business and Economy Class seats and a leading edge in-flight entertainment system are due on board by the end of the year and a new service style in Economy Class is being rolled out progressively on all Etihad routes.
"The new economy service is an extension of the inspired service philosophy already embedded in our premium cabins. It delivers a level of personal attention and touches of luxury that will make the economy travel experience the best in the sky," Mr Hogan said.
Etihad's new economy class service offers much greater choice and flexibility for individual travellers and includes:
· extra support for families at the airport and during boarding;
· entertainment packs and IFE assistance for children;
· new menus, including hot desserts; and
· a hot and cold café service offering a range of beverages from cappuccino to green tea, as well as a juice bar.
Mr Hogan said: "As we move into 2010, we intend to cement our place as the world's best airline, opening up new routes, taking delivery of new aircraft, investing in new products in the air and on the ground, and introducing a range of online initiatives to make travelling with Etihad better than ever," he said.
"Our next growth phase will also position Etihad to reach its goal of profitability in 2011. This will be a key focus for us as we move forward with a programme of continuous investment in our network, our product, and in staff training and development."
Etihad Airways has won more than a dozen major global awards this year for the quality of its services and products, including awards for the airline's first class, business class, in-flight entertainment and on-board catering, lounges, etihadairways.com website, Etihad Guest loyalty programme, marketing campaigns and sponsorships.
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